BJEWELED

your link to what every woman should know about the finer points in life, love and expressing yourself with jewelry

April 18, 2016

HIGHLIGHTS OF MY FANTASY JEWELRY COLLECTION: After Auction Preview hopping at Bonhams, Christie’s and Sotheby’s

jubilee ruby ring by Verdura/Christie's

This weekend I went auction preview hopping in New York City: Bonham’s Fine Jewelry and Christie’s and Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sales. And, upon returning home, I began to think, that, in a parallel universe, if I had the means to purchase any jewel I desired or—if I had a man in my life, say, oh, like Richard Burton who as Elizabeth Taylor described bought gifts “just because it’s Tuesday” and could land treasures like the Taj Mahal diamond and La Peregrina Pearl at auction, and when outbid on a 69.42 carat diamond would buy it back from the higher bidder, Cartier for .5 million more, I could be very happy with a guy so—resourceful. I could be equally content with a collection cultivated from the pieces I saw during this past two days. Of course there would be other pieces I would eventually add, which I would purchase outright and by myself — because a woman cannot live by jewels won at auction alone. I’d cab right over to A La Vieille Russie for a find or two, F-D Gallery, Kentshire and Fred Leighton and hop a flight to London to pop round to Wartski, S.J Phillips, Bentley & Skinner, and then off to the renowned houses in Paris. But, for now we are talking about the bidding which is about to begin and so I have made my choices and in my fantasy world, before I send someone to do my bidding and before the hammer goes down—let me share my favorites and why I have chosen each one.

From The Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels Sale

A Tiffany & Co. pendant watch with guilloche enamel foliate design, old European cut diamonds, dial and movement, both Tiffany & Co, circa 1900.This is a must—a girl always needs to know what time it is! I personally also might need quick escape from a first date and it would be impolite to look down at a timepiece on my wrist –so obviously, when a pendant watch could be just turned over nonchalantly. And, how many ways could you wear it. Let me count a few. On a chain, on the lapel or pocket of a jacket, pinned up on long chain to the side of a sleek dress.

tiffany pe

Tiffany & Co. Pendant Watch/Sotheby’s

Cartier oval shaped untreated Burmese star ruby 13.4 x10 by 7.8 mm, flanked by round and square cut diamonds. Well just have look. And that one look says it all. Rubies are my favorite stone and it’s just the perfect little pinky ring.

Cartier ruby ring/Sotheby’s

Castellani Archaeological Revival Gold and Colored Glass Bead necklace with grapevine leaves in gold and grape clusters in purple and green glass, 1880. I have been to Villa Giulia where there is a permanent collection of Castellani jewels and have always wanted to own a few pieces of varying looks and this necklace is such a fine example of the workmanship and style of that era. But I am not giving up on at least one micro-mosaic piece to add to my collection, when I find it.

better castellani

Castellani Necklace/Sotheby’s

Silver topped gold and diamond pendant necklace with European cut and old mind cut diamonds, 25-carats. French hallmarks late 19th century. The perfect wear-anywhere late Victorian necklace. The silver topped gold and the old cut diamonds allow it to be worn for day without looking ostentatious. Well, with the exception of riding the subway, walking the dog, or sitting at home in sweatpants or flannel pajama pants and typing articles or blogs like these. I will be very strict with my final bidding price on this—oh but this is my fantasy—Dog walkers and car services and assistants all figure into this life—so the necklace is definitely a go.

victorian necklaceN09495-72_web

19th Century Necklace/Sotheby’s

 

Platinum 18k Gold Tanzanite, emerald, colored diamond and white diamond brooch, Donald Clafin for Tiffany & Co. As a serious collector, I am gaga for this piece. It was created when Tanzanite was first discovered. “Henry Platt bought, cut and polished it, especially for Tiffany & Co,” the auction catalog states. And Frank Everett, Senior Vice President of Jewelry Sales confirms that it was one of 18 limited edition pieces that Claffin was asked to design. The size—a whopping 47.85 carats set into a flora and fauna motif is something I would like to have in my arrangement of jewels. And I am definitely a flower and brooch girl. Appreciation value and collectability all figure into my decision (in my fantasy world) of how high I am willing to go.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 9.42.49 PM

Claffin Tanzanite Brooch for Tiffany & Co/Sotheby’s

Art Deco Platinum Onyx and Rock Crystal diamond brooch with side tulip motifs, Cartier. Circa 1922. An extraordinary example of rock crystal and onyx during the Art Deco movement.  And, black, white, grey and some muted shades of mauve, cadet blue and olive green—is what my wardrobe consists of—can I possibly go wrong?

Cartier broochN09495-236_web

Cartier Rock Crystal Brooch/Sotheby’s

18K gold ruby sapphire, emerald and diamond Ballerina Brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels New York, which features a winged ballerina decorated with a tiara and floral bouquet, circa 1947. Where to start? I was studying to be a ballerina when I was five—but soon gave it up for modern jazz—but have been in awe of the movement and grace ever since I have could not spin on my toes—I can barely walk without klutzily knocking something over. Anyway I stray—I have always wanted to own a Van Cleef & Arpels ballerina brooch—ever since I first saw one—and this particular piece features all that I find magical—the tiara and the floral bouquet, could I ask for more?

Ballerina_5245

Van Cleef & Arpels Ballerina Brooch/Sotheby’s

Yes!

another brooch…

Platinum Diamond and Onyx brooch set with old mine cut diamond and calibre cut onyx, circa 1910-1915. There are numerous reasons why I love this brooch. I immediately see it worn across the top of a buttoned up white shirt, dress down with black leather jacket. I also am a huge fan of Jeanne Boivin who took over the house of Boivin after her husband Rene passed away in 1917. Although the brooch was designed while her husband was still alive, Jeanne became a pioneer in a predominately male business and she also had the foresight to hire Suzanne Beperron, one of the most talented female jewelry designers of the 20th century.

BoivinN09495-315_web

Boivin Brooch/Sotheby’s

 

From the Bonham’s Fine Jewelry Sale

I am in desperate need—okay, need is a bit strong but let’s say I have been coveting a pair of day/night or detachable pendant earrings in emerald and diamonds. Viola, I found a perfect pair in platinum by Ruser. Each suspending a pear shaped emerald with round brilliant cut diamond surround pedant drops detachable. Signed Ruser.   Okay I am ready to move on…

 

Bonham April 18_Ear Pendants_Ruser

Ruser Pendant Earrings/ Bonham

From The Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Sale

I was immediately attracted to two pieces that were from a small selection of the upcoming Christie’s Geneva Jewelry Sale, which was on view in New York.

The first was up there as one of my two favorites at the Christie’s preview—A RARE ENAMEL & GOLD BRACELET, BY BAPST & FALIZE. This was designed as a hinged band of nine translucent cloisonné enameled panels, each depicting elaborate and various-colored birds surrounded by floral motifs  against a pale gray ground,  The reverse featured a yellow enamel background with  various-colored leaves mounted in gold. Two bracelets in one, which are equally stunning and can be changed around at whim—or with someone who can help you with the clasp.

IMG_5165

One side of Enamel Panel Falize Bracelet/Christie’s

 

IMG_5162

The other size of The Falize Bracelet/Christie’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A diamond Bulgari Serpentini necklace – A red carpet necklace if there was ever one—just envision Naomi Watts in the one she wore and you’ve go the picture. But if I am going to have a guy similar to Richard Burton—why wouldn’t we bid on a Bulgari iconic necklace. I can find no reason—how bout you?

serpentini necklace

Bulgari Diamond Serpentini Necklace/ Christie’s

A platinum and diamond bangle bracelet by Jean Schlumberger, prior to his collaboration with Tiffany & Co. It is diamond encrusted and my favorite part is that five flower blossoms are set en tremblant, circa 1940. It’s a true collectors item and the moveable blossoms spoke to me—“bid on me, bid on me. I belong in your collection.” I also like the all white platinum and diamond look. I love that whenever I move—the en tremblant pieces move with me and sort of shimmy and shake on my wrist. This is so mesmerizing—it could be a good hypnosis technique to focus on when I have writer’s block.

jean schlumberger bracelet

Jean Schlumberger Bracelet/ Christie’s

I am also in awe of these three varying size graduated detachable Van Cleef & Arpels floral clip brooches, white on white with diamond line necklace. Oh the convertibility of it all. I can take the brooches off-wear them in my clustered in my hair, on the side of a sweater, across the neckline of a sweater on a dress or can wear one of a time on a lapel, a denim jacket… the list goes on. Not only is this beautiful but versatile as well.

van cleef and arpels clip necklace

Van Cleef & Arpels Graduated Clips on Necklace/Christies

Perhaps the one of the few jewels that actually works with my real life—but alas not with my budget, so it’s best to stay in fantasyland for a little while longer. Absolutely head over heels for this platinum Bell Époque Rock Crystal and diamond pendant necklace with a pear shaped carved rock crystal plaque, with collet set old cut diamonds, circa 1915 with French assay marks.

Rock Crystal necklace

Belle Epoque Rock Crystal and Diamond Necklace/Christie’s

Another jewel I can see wearing in my real life—but see above—same problem is this bracelet peeking out from a sleeve or completely exposed with a sleeveless or thin strapped slip dress or looking extremely chic with a grey T-shirt and worn jeans. It’s an Art deco and emerald tassel bracelet crafted of baguette and hexagonal cut collet set diamonds. The flexible bracelet is set with rectangular cut emeralds suspending a diamond tassel with various cuts of diamond and emerald cap, circa 1925 with French assay marks.

 

emerald bracelet

Art Deco Emerald and Diamond Tassel bracelet/Christie’s

And…the jaw dropper—the one that is akin for this ruby obsessed girl to Richard Burton’s burning designer to what would be renamed the Taylor-Burton diamond.

The Jubilee RubyRuby Ring by Verdura—and how apropos as Verdura’s ruby heart graces the cover of my most recent book “IF These Jewels Could Talk”.

IMG_5150

Verdura Ruby RIng/ Christie’s

 

 To say goodnight to all of you who are dreaming in jewels and waiting to see the auction results or if you bid on any piece in real life—I end the blog with this oval shaped ruby weighing approximately 15.99, with circular cut diamonds—a magical, breathtaking-mind blowing Burmese ruby. While the Cartier star ruby can be my everyday ring—this will come out for special occasions—like leaving the house to attend jewelry events when I am not writing about them.

And here’s to the Rocks on The Block this season and my new jewelry collection curated from them—in my own sweet dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 1, 2016

In The Words of My Mother and Grandmother: Best Picks at the 2016 Oscars

 

Charlize Theron in ultra long diamond necklace and diamond earrings

Charlize Theron in ultra long diamond necklace and diamond earrings

Last night while live tweeting under my handle @bethbjeweled and instagraming under the same handle, all while downloading photos from celebrity photo agencies and writing my blog for Indesign.jewelry, my youngest brother called (read: youngest who has a teenage son and a daughter in her second year in college) –anyway—

I picked up the phone with my usual charm when I am stressed. Without even saying Hi. I launched into “I can’t talk now—too much going on—computer, iPad, iPhone all going at once—and I am trying to keep up.”

“But it’s only 7:30. The show hasn’t even started yet,” he commented.

To which I tried to explain about red carpet arrivals and then ended with a quick, “love you, gotta go, call you tomorrow.”

He tugged at my heartstrings before he let me off the phone, with “remember when we all used to watch the show together with Mom and Grandma Ida.” How could I forget? –it was one of my favorite times—rating the outfits and the jewels, jumping off the couch and yelling at the TV when some one we thought should win, didn’t—basically acting, well,  like my two  brothers during the Super Bowl.

But isn’t that what the Oscars are —the Super Bowl of actresses bringing on their A-game to jewels and gowns? My mom ( a Vice President of a sportswear company, who before marriage and kids was studying to be an actress and my grandmother –with very strong opinions and taste in jewels) loved dishing with me about who was wearing what or what was wearing who. We also went over  what we we would wear should we be receiving an award. I think my mom had her speech planned since she was seventeen. But –I stray – we all cried when Diane Keaton won for “Annie Hall” and then asked if after she won, she always had to look like the character she played. Diane channeled Annie for at least another 10 years of Oscars. We rooted for Barbra Streisand and her antique jewels—“Fred Leighton?” my mother would guess, which she would have basically had to do even now—since Ryan Seacrest still isn’t of any use –unless you want to know about someone’s shoes.

In the late seventies and eighties, most of the gowns looked like they just stepped out of Studio 54, like they belonged on Las Vegas showgirls or like the actresses were impressed by the ruffled customs of the performer formally known as Prince, who I believe  is known as Prince, again. My mom passed away suddenly n the early  ’90s just as old Hollywood glamour was starting to make a comeback. A cross between Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn with a bod like Natalie Wood—she was straight out of her era and she would have rocked the red carpet. My grandmother lived until 2009, just a month shy of 97 and we still watched together; she still formed extremely strong opinions and could be as sarcastic though not as snarky as some of the live tweets of jewelry insiders.

After hanging up on my brother, I began thinking about what their picks would be for this year’s Oscars best looks in jewels and gowns. Since I have to write specific blogs for online magazines and websites, I figured I should rejuvenate my own blog and present my favorites of the evening by channeling my mom and grandmother. I remember their voices, humor and the way we all interacted. And, so here’s a look at a few of our “choices” and what the woman who inspired me might have said:

 

CHARLIZE THERON

Me: “Loving Charlize Theron—she’s got old Hollywood glamour down with a bit of hip thrown in. And that necklace. What I wouldn’t do for long sautoir style necklace like that.”

Mom: “Predicable. Red on blondes. Although the silhouette of the gown is  good. The lines on the necklace are just right for the plunging neckline of the dress. Does the dress actually  have a neckline when it dips that low? Anyway you have a necklace like that. You are antique jewelry addict and you should be saving for your retirement. Perfect time to sell the similar necklace—it will be on trend and appreciate in value every time another writer like you shows it on a blog, tweet or what’s the Instagram thing called—oh yes, post.”

Grandmother: “All we saw are diamonds. Are they all going after Madonna’s version of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” or Nicole Kidman as Sateen in “Moulin Rouge’s” version or “Marilyn Monroe”? Do these young starlets  even know  Carol Channing who sang it, dripping in diamonds for the  original play. And what neckline?—that dress is so low. I’m no prude—that’s not what I mean but such small breasts, maybe she should of worn a dress that dipped  down the back. That would have worked. And, don’t sell that necklace—I taught you to choose your jewelry well. Oh, and red looks great on blondes—I wear red. And, don’t start with me about it being out of a bottle. Do you think Charlize is a real platinum blonde. Girls give me a break.” (my grandmother is basically having this convo with herself now as no one is disagreeing).

 

Cate Blanchett in Tiffany & Co diamond jewels

Cate Blanchett in Tiffany & Co diamond jewels

 

 

CATE BLANCHETT

Me: She can never do wrong. She always look totally polished and pulled together, from the dress to the shoes, to the jewels. Ever since her first time on the red carpet, she has been one of my three favorites (I will make you guess the other two). She is the embodiment of Old Hollywood glamour. Hey do you think I should have lived in that era—I always want the new actresses to conjure up the looks of, well , one of your time periods.”

Mom: “I agree wholeheartedly about Cate. I wish I could disagree with at least one thing you said. It’s so much more fun that way. I even love when Cate went bold with the black dress and multi –strand turquoise necklace at an earlier award. She’s got a great stylist. (Your two other modern favorites on the red carpet are Nicole Kidman and Anne Hathaway) with the exception of complaining that Nicole’s beautiful  face doesn’t move anymore and it’s always worse around awards’ time because you think she gets it done too close to the shows. ” (my mom is correct about all). She continues, “And you just wrote a book about the legends behind celebrities jewels –of course you are obsessed with them. You have been watching old movies, reciting lines, commenting on the jewelry with your grandmother—since you were six.”

Grandmother: “Your mother knows of what she speaks.” And, Cate is definitely pulled together. Just  look at that color—pale blue. You girls always wore too much black. See how beautiful a pale shade of blue, pink or lavender can brighten up a women’s entire persona. And the jewels—Tiffany & Co—remember when I used to take Beth to FAO Schwartz to look at the dolls and she would drag me down a few blocks to press her nose against the glass and peer into the window of the Fifth Avenue flagship Tiffany’s. Then I would take her to Worthworths to buy tiaras and ropes of rhinestones and pearls so she could pretend she was Audrey Hepburn as Holly GoLightly. Come to think of it –maybe Beth, you should have lived in an earlier time. Your taste in jewelry certainly veers to…a grandmother’s jewelry box…but your paternal grandmother—my jewels were more bold and colorful–and earrings! I always wore earrings!  And regarding Nicole, She’s still so young. And whatever happened to aging gracefully?”

(My grandmother strays from the topic but my guess is that she’s down with Cate)

oh here, my mother chimes in–”I think you mean aging naturally. Because age gracefully means going in for a “refresher” to your dermatologist –a little botox here, some juve there. Is that what they are still using?
“Can we get back on topic please?” I steer them back.

 

Emily Blunt in Nikiwa diamond chandelier earrings

Emily Blunt in Nikiwa diamond chandelier earrings

 

 

 

EMILY BLUNT

Me: “Another one who never disappoints. Emily has this cool classicism  that evokes a nonchalant elegance. I love the gown with the earrings. It just flows perfectly together.”

Mom: “Here I need to agree with your grandmother about pink, although I thought that would be a cold day in hell—can I say that on your blog—anyway if the dress was a brighter color she would look like she was lit up like the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center but this is subtle and beautiful and she is wearing just the right amount of jewelry. She might be my favorite this year.”

Grandmother: “Pretty in pink.” See I know what I am talking about. And earrings. The earrings make all of the difference. A woman should never leave the house without them. I know all of the jewelry enthusiasts (crazies) were  asking why no one was wearing a necklace for a few awards seasons and I agree –it was a time when actress on the red carpet went too bare around the shoulders, neck and décolletage… but earrings light up a woman’s face like nothing else. They also detract from your flaws. (I interject—“stop looking at me like that”)— “you have no flaws but you could use a little color, sparkle, shine around your face—I have been telling you for years not to pile on the rings and instead remember earrings.—you nmight gaze longingly at those rings the English Aristocracy made famous but others look at your face and earrings just add a little something. Like lipstick does Besides this isn’t about you. “(Isn’t it?).

Other picks of the evening were:

 

 

 

Julianne Moore in Chopard DIamonds

Julianne Moore in Chopard DIamonds

—my mother likes that she is a more mature actress who is “stunningly beautifull”, knows her own style and plays it to the hilt. My grandmother also appreciates this. Personally, I love that she isn’t wearing green gems to this award show. Although no one looks as good in emeralds as she does, not even Angelina Jolie.

My grandmother chimes in, “Angelina Jolie Pffff .” And that was all she said

For more on the Oscars and how to borrow the inspiration of the diamond looks for day—head on over to indesign.jewelry.

 

 

 

 

October 27, 2015

A STATEMENT OF THE PAST

IMG_9391

Spicer_Warin

 

Only a little over a month ago, I was live tweeting with some other jewelry editors, writers, designers and bloggers about the 2015 Prime Time Emmy Arrivals. Although we did agree on a couple of trends, we were also  surprised (possible shocked)  at the amount of bare necks when the actually gown– strapless, plunging necklines, deep v’s  spaghetti straps and off the shoulder–called for a little some encircling the throat or dipping down to the decollatage.

This past weekend, while at two antique jewelry shows in New York City: Leuer at the Javits Center and The International Show: Art and Antiques at the Park Avenue Armory, I couldn’t help but think (I was once a fashion magazine stylist and wardrobe stylist for TV-)-there are enough show stopping antique and period necklaces to have en-circled almost all of the style setting actresses who stuck out their bare necks out on the Red Carpet. But while that ship or show has now  passed… it was refreshing to see the amount of magnificent  statement necklaces and pendants–so many of them from my favorite time period Georgian–stating what the past was all about- regal workmanship, artful detailing and a way of working color that was refined, feminine and yet singular–creating pieces that stand out yet never detract from the person wearing them.

Maybe the Golden Globe and Oscar stylists will take their cue from these breathtaking all around necklaces and larger pendants, some in all diamonds and the others in beautiful garnets, topaz, agates, amethysts and a host of alternative precious stones

Here are a few of my favorites from both shows:

 

IMG_9457

Spicer_Warin

IMG_9507

FullSizeRender

Pat Saling

IMG_9570

Drucker Antiques

IMG_9397

Lowther Antiques

IMG_9569

Sandra Cronan

IMG_9568

James Robinson

IMG_9451

John M Ullmann

May 11, 2015

FD’s Jewelry Wonderland

photo-11-e1431349885817

FD’s shop window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FD’s shop window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just peering into the windows of FD Gallery, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. And no wonder, the rare jewels of Van Cleef & Arpels are displayed with cupcakes, while Cartier confections hold their own when showcased with fruit tarts, chocolate truffles  are surrounding Susan Belperron (0r the other way around) . And, that’s just at first glance.  Walking into the store, my attention span has lapsed. Not just sensory overload— but remarkable one of kind antique and vintage jewelry-all-in-one-place-and-I-get-to-play-with-it-all—joy! I want this, no this, no, this. Okay, I just want everything.

Actually, when my hearts stops fluttering, I realize FD Gallery carries my personal favorites: pieces created in the 18th and 19th century, and there is myriad selection in this time period for me to live happily ever after in this jeweled wonderland.

My eyes dart to the Russian “Faith, Hope and Charity” motif in rose diamonds on an oval gold locket. I am transfixed by the serpent jewels, the memorial rings and the myriad pendants—that I am already imagining layering around my neck.

memorialrings

A group of amazing memorial rings in the shop

 

 

 

Pendants and lockets, from a “lover’s eye to an enamel pendant to a rosed diamond snake locket, rose diamond anchor and perpetual calendar

faithhopecharity

Russian “Faith, Hope, and Charity” Pendant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” bracelet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps my favorite piece in the entire shop, being the sentimentalist that I am, is an antique French gold and silver “Je T’aime un peu, Beaucoup, Passionnement” bracelet, which literally translates into “ he loves me a little, a lot, passionately” And for those of us who have picked the petals off of daisies for much of our lives, it is interpreted into “he loves me; he loves me not.” The detail of the center of the daisies and the carving of the entire bracelet has me awestruck when I try it on. Somehow I get a case of clasp amnesia and am unable to get it off.

From the outside, FD gives the appearance of seemingly small shop on the charming east 65th street between Fifth and Madison, with pretty brownstones and a stones throw across the Central Park from my own home on west 65th Street. but once inside the central showcases which house Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, along with other cases, featuring works by a who’s-who roster of the most famous jewelers of the 20th Century: Taffin, JAR and Wallace Chan;Bulgari, Boivin, Suzanne Belperron, Flato, Tiffany, Verdura and Boucheron .

And, having just finished a book which features these renowned houses’ most famous jewels- my appreciation has grown even stronger (as if that were possible) – and in addition to the wearable gems – I am coveting Van Cleef & Arpels turquoise, ruby, gold and silver and lacquer minaudiere vanity case

Van Cleef & Arpels vanity case

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement plan? I am truly rethinking that whole thing when I can wear all of this jewelry NOW.
The shop continues on with wall cases and a relaxing salon in the back in which to sit back,  try on pieces and eye the chocolate truffles and jars full of sweet and sour candy. Anyone who knows me—knows my sweet tooth might just be as strong as my passion for jewelry. I can easily be spotted with a handful of Gummi Bears as well as fingers full of rings

Antique Gold Enamel Diamond Serpent Ring

 

A Victorian mine cut silver on top of gold double heart ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Partner’s FionaDruckenmiller and Fernando Bustillo opened FD  Gallery because they realized that “ jewelry collector’s could never find one place that meet all of their needs.” Druckenmiller explains. “I believe that collecting exquisite pieces is both an emotional and intellectual pursuit.”

 

She continues, “Women have been powerfully drawn to jewelry for millennia. A woman may express herself best with her eyes, her gestures, her kindness and her wisdom, but she also takes an instinctive pleasure in adornment and can feel transformed when she is wearing something lovely. Jewelry plays some role in almost every woman’s life. I hope to make the act of buying and collecting jewelry a special experience. For although our relationship to jewelry will always retain some mystery.”
And with similar feelings about jewelry, I have, of course, put aside - and I will be back. If you can’t stop in personally, You can also see pieces online and  call  for further information on a piece or pieces you are interested in.

May 9, 2015

A TRUE GEM: REMEMBERING MOM

A recent post I did for Huffington Post–wanted to share here to honor my mom for  Mother’s Day

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/beth-bernstein/because-i-said-soremember_b_7222944.html?utm_campaign=naytev&utm_content=554bbf3ee4b0c26975e51b79&fb_ref=Default

 

In 2013, I wrote a piece for Huffington Post, “No Place Like Home”, on how after losing my mother, 20 years before, I still would never get used to Mother’s Day. Nothing has changed since that article. In my memoir, “My Charmed Life” (Penguin 2012), which I dedicated to both my mother and my grandmother, I recalled many of my most significant memories through pieces of jewelry handed down to me as well as those we purchased together and those I remembered her wearing or watched her get dressed up in when I was a kid. The memories are still vivid. The jewelry, I still wear. Some pieces I have pass along to my niece, while I tell her stories of the grandmother she never got to know. They are joyous recollections times we spent together, laughing, joking, of the push and pull of our relationship and of an understanding mother who was also my best friend.

My mom died unexpectedly at 55 from a brain aneurysm when I was 32. Sometime after my nightly 11PM phone conversation with my mother, ending with her usual “lock your door. I love you and I’m always here for you” and her getting dressed for work in the morning, she blacked out and went into a coma. Three hours after the ambulance rushed her to the hospital and the doctors started working on her in the ICU, she was gone. I had lost my confidant, best friend and the person who was–home.

It was incomprehensible that I would never see her again. I had no time to prepare; not that I could have been ready to lose the woman who put my life back together every time I had my heart broken, who made friends for me when I was shy and ate Mallomars with me when I was sad. My mother believed I could be anything I wanted, that I was intelligent and beautiful, even in my adolescence, while going through my awkward stage, with braces and a badly feathered haircut. She viewed any guy who dumped me as unworthy of me and “knew in her heart” that I would find someone when I was ready who would love me as much as she did.

I didn’t know how long it would take me to grieve, when it would start, if it would ever stop. I didn’t know then, that it would turn into something deeper, a sense of loss, an emptiness that could never be plugged up, that would get more bearable with time but would never go away. There would forever be something missing–my reflection–the woman who looked back at me in the mirror and said, “no matter who you are, you’re okay by me.”

As far as jewelry, She taught me how to keep it simple, that fine pieces are meant to add a little sparkle while still allowing your personality to shine through, how to mix antique and modern, faux and real and somehow make it all work. In the seventies, we would check our Mood Rings, like we did the “Magic 8 Ball” as if they were cheat sheets for our lives. These were the moments, the simple ones that I longed for most and still do just like I still go to pick up the phone to call whenever something small or big happens or if I am just in need of my closest friend.

My mother had an eye for fashion and an innate sense of taste. I had the most fun dressing up next to her, first in her jewelry and clothes, as a young girl and then helping each other get ready for an important meeting or date. My life changed forever when I lost her. But the lessons that she slipped in along the way eventually helped me to figure out who I was. I only began to realize my passion for jewelry and the meaning and sentimentality attached to different keepsakes when she passed away, how her jewelry, along with my own– the pieces handed down, given and not given to me as gifts– would eventually tell the story of my life and would shape my career. These memories and mementos will always be with me and have linked together my past and my present.

When I was five, my appendix almost burst, and I was rushed to the hospital and straight into surgery. I was petrified by the flashing lights and the speed with which the doctors got me onto the gurney. I woke up during the operation and they had to put ether back over my nose. They kept me for two weeks, ended with me being obsessed with the scar that was the exact size and shape as the one on Frankenstein’s head. “It will fade,” my mother said as convincingly as possible but I could not stop looking at it with disbelief.

She took me shopping to find something to make me feel pretty, “maybe a new dress for school, pair of shoes or daisy pendant,” she had offered. But, as we passed through the accessories department, I saw a tiara sitting in a glass class in Manhattan’s 59th Street and Lexington Avenue Bloomingdales. It was all twinkly and sprinkled with glittering rhinestones and Swarovski crystals, dripping off of the sides and decorating the top. It had a metallic sheen that changed from a noble purple to a more royal blue when it moved with the light. I knew that it had to be mine.

Many years later I would learn that it was what my mother called “a monstrosity, rivaling only Cher’s most ostentatious headdress.” But in the store, she knew she had to get me out without a tantrum and sat me down in a chair and explained: “Oh honey, there is only one and they are holding it for a very important duchess from some far away land. It’s amazing that you chose this one. You definitely have royal taste. But let’s see if we can find something else worthy of your style and beauty.” The sales associates were in awe of the way in which she handled the situation and got into their roles, two of them bringing me a tray of more toned down tiara-like headbands, more befitting a five year old. When I was adorned in one that had just a few seed pearls with a tiny floral design and one single tiny diamante teardrop surrounded by a delicate scroll on top, my mother held up a mirror and told me it was me.

She was smart enough to realize that my taste was like every young girl’s, more glitzy than glamorous and she let me think it was me who decided that I was more Grace Kelly than Elizabeth Taylor, although I do believe that style is inherited and that I developed her knack to choose pieces that would allow me to wear my jewelry rather than have it wear me.

Throughout the years, I continued to notice interactions between mothers and daughters.
I listened to my friends who vacillated between complaining about how their mothers still pinch their sides and ask, “have you gained a little weight?” and criticize the care of their children. These same women also fear their mom’s aging and eventually losing them. After all of this time, I still don’t know what to say: that the pain will grow duller into an ache that will always be there? I don’t think they will want to hear that it never goes away. That no matter how old or how many things you’ve been through, whenever you go to a doctor, have an emergency or someone hurts you, you will always need your mother. That no matter how strong or tough a woman you are, you will always long for her love and her protective words, letting you know that everything will be all right.

When I look into the mirror, I see lines forming around my eyes. At fifty four, only one year younger than when my mother passed away, I see her friends– beautiful women like her– who grew up too soon, with children they were too young to raise and husbands like my father, who were still wild. They have gotten facelifts and injectables; I have watched them turn more taut and tightened and filled in, fighting against aging. I wish with all of my heart that my mom had the chance to fight along with them, and that I had the ability to discuss with her the benefits of Botox and the art of detracting with a few precious colored gems around the face.

Although I think my mother knew how much I loved her. I might have liked to tell her that I realize that she wasn’t just a mother but a woman too. That it must have been a bitch after being divorced at 35, to raise three kids with very little help from my dad. I’d like to apologize for never acknowledging that she might have felt just like me– flawed and imperfect, hurt and sometimes angry. I would have liked to tell her that she did a damn good job and that there is never a day that goes by that she is not missed or remembered.

Each year, when mother’s day or her birthday rolls around, I take out the pieces of jewelry that were passed down to me. I slip on her long strand of creamy Mikimoto pearls and pretend that I am standing next to her once again, a young girl, dressing up in her jewelry, imagining her looking back at me, her smile filled with understanding, her eyes warming over with pride for the daughter who so wanted to emulate her. As I continue getting dressed I slide on her Victorian bangles–”three for luck” as she used to say–and hope she knows that it’s her voice I always hear whenever I need courage, strength or a good laugh.

When I fasten a black cashmere sweater that has lost a button with the baguette stickpin, I feel her eternal presence beside me. I hope that I am reflecting the woman she would have wanted me to become. And, I thank her for passing down her compassion her big mushy heart, her style, and for always allowing me to believe that I had royal taste.

May 4, 2015

Do You Know The Way to Sante “Fe”

image001 image001-1

I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In previous blogs, I wrote about my passion for turquoise and gold in Early Victorian designs and then in the contemporary collections of jewelers who reintroduced turquoise with high karat gold. In one of the blogs, I talked about how turquoise had gotten a bad rep since the 70s, defining the decade with bold cuffs, rings that took up much of the finger and long earrings. Being a child of the seventies, I saw a lot of this jewelry. I was given a inlaid Southwestern sterling silver and turq band for my first “going steady” ring (which turned my finger green) and then some Zuni turquoise bracelets later on for my sweet sixteen, and earrings, which were long and weighty before I was so aware of how they could tear or pull at my lobes. My mom, who was in her in her late twenties and early thirties in the seventies, also took to the trend, which we get an interesting and informative glimse of in Southwestern Indian Bracelets: The Essential Cuff by Paula A. Baxter (Schiffer Fashion Press, An imprint of Schiffer Publishing Ltd, April 2015).

 

In addition to being on target with the wide cuff making a comeback as well as the 70s and vintage jewelry returning to the fashion scene, this book is dedicated to educating on the intricate and evolving styles, the first of which were designed in 1868. And that is where the author Baxter is so adept at showing us the historical context. A quote which starts chapter siz, explains “The 1970s was the decade when American Indian Jewelry ‘suddenly” came into vogue.” After being around and displaying incredibly intricate artisan and metalsmithing abilities, Baxter talks about the various possiblities as to why these styles took a firm hold in the 70s. It was a time of change and of more acceptance of ethnic diversity. It was also a time when the traditional life style for American Indians went through transformation and more natives were “living off reservation and moved into regional towns and cities.” Popular culture and young Southwestern Indians learned from each other and the Sante Fe Indiaan Market with its overview of various Inter-tribal styles and designs ushered in a decade that created more awareness.

 

But the heritage of earlier designs ran through the late 19th century into the early 20th century with a focus on the historical cuffs, meanings, motifs, handi-work and symbolism. The earlier bracelets borrowed inspiration from the Greeks and Romans, but then the symbolism or secret believes of a tribe were magically incorporated in to the designs of a bracelet whether it be one symbol or an entire scene. Inlay, black and silver relief, cut out designs and deeply engraved work was all part of the designs , which focused on a rich mosaic of colors of gemstones in the inlay works. Although I still prefer my turquoise in gold, after reading this book, I have a new appreciate for those pieces I used to “borrow” (read: sneak out of) my mother’s jewelry chest in a time when the Southwestern Indian cuffs snuck into our culture and captured a decade.

While you are purchasing your copy of “Southwestern Indian Bracelets” you might as well add another book to your shopping cart. I prefer to shop in real life in store –although delivery is definitely an option when you have to ride the subway in Manhattan with these more bulky books.

But there is a rich history to be found when purchasing these two Schiffer books together, Non-Figural Designs in Zuni Jewelry by Toshio Sei , (Schiffer Fashion Press, January 2015)

This well illustrated guides the reader through the origins to the contemporary interpretations of various styles of non-figural Zuni jewelry designs, including nugget work, cluster work, petit point, needle point, snake eye, and channel work. Many Zuni artists from the forties, fifties and sixties are showcased within these glossy pages, once again bringing me back to my youth: Turquoise and coral pins, bracelets, bolo ties. Seems so interesting what one can appreciate in retrospect. (I broke up with a boy for sporting an inlaid bolo in college to an important party)…

 

There are more than fifteen pieces each by masters, past and present. More than three hundred vibrant color photos reveal subtle variations that indicate each master’s distinctive style. There are cluster work bracelets by Leekya Deyuse, the single most famous jeweler in the Southwest, and Dan Simplicio’s nugget work, along with ways to distinguish his from other artists’ works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2, 2014

Star Struck- The Recently Opened Verdura Exhibition

Chanel's cuffs by Verdura

Chanel’s cuffs by Verdura

It is easy  to be a little star struck by a master jeweler who created Coco Chanel’s original Maltese cuffs or designed Greta Garbo’s signature 1939 curb link watch bracelet. This is exactly how I felt when I entered the exhibition, which celebrates the75th Anniversary of Verdura: The Power of Style: Verdura at 75, (open to the public from October 14 through December 23 at 745 Fifth Avenue adjacent to the Verdura Gallery).

The exhibit has been curated by Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, longtime friends of Verdura, and their daughter Patricia Lansing. In addition to being the first-ever retrospective of master jeweler Duke Fulco di Verdura’s work, it features pieces that have never before been on public.

 

Over 300 jewels are showcased, including pieces from the private collections of Sofia Coppola, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Taylor Bradford as well as a gold, platinum and diamond “Feather Headdress” tiara designed for Betsey Cushing Whitney to wear at the Court of St. James in 1957 to reflect her American heritage. Also included are 1940s and 1950s ledger books chronicling the manufacture and sale of original pieces to such luminaries as the Duke of Windsor, William Paley, Vincent Astor and Samuel Goldwyn.

 

Being both a jewelry and a film buff, it was a treat to see brooches from two of my favorite movies, Joan Fontaine’s own “Winged” style, which she wore in the Alfred Hitchcock film “Suspicion” and the pin that George Cukor commissioned for Katherine Hepburn to wear in “Holiday”. I also was inspired to view the original wrapped “Sash” Heart brooch that Tyrone Power commissioned for his wife Annabella for Christmas, 1941, which was never before on public display.

 Joan Fontaine wearing her own Verdura winged brooch  in Suspicion 1941 wit

Joan Fontaine wearing her own Verdura winged brooch in Suspicion 1941 wit

 

 

Joan Fontaine's Winged Brooch

Joan Fontaine’s Winged Brooch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greta Garbo in Verdura's Curb Link Watch

Greta Garbo in Verdura’s Curb Link Watch

 

 

 

The brooch Tyron Power bought for his wife

The brooch Tyron Power bought for his wife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are just a few of the luminaries that Fulco Vedura listed among his clients, a list that read like a whose who of the famed and those fortunate enough to have owned and had the extremely pleasure of wearing his pieces. The exhibit also includes a running video of the films his jewelry and decorative items are featured, including “Delovely” based on Cole Porter’s life. Ashley Judd (playing Porter’s wife) wears the jewelry and Kevin Kline as Porter opens the cigarette cases that “The Duke” gave his good friend Porter, in real life, before the open of each Broadway show.

 

A cigarette case designed for Cole Porter from Verdura

A cigarette case designed for Cole Porter from Verdura

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 11.45.33 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ward Landrigan, Verdura’s chairman and CEO who purchased the company in 1984 six years after the duke’s death, stated,   “We designed the exhibition to give visitors a sense of surprise and wonder –a feeling of discovering Fulco for the very first time. Verdura’s work was all about contrast, so while the work is whimsically classical, the environment we present him in is decidedly modern.”

 

Whether designing for Chanel in the 1920s, creating the perfect gift for Cole Porter and glamorous Hollywood stars in the 1930s, or opening a bespoke atelier led in New York in the 1940s, where he established himself as a private ‘upstairs’ jeweler for his notable friends and clients, European and American society, his legend lives on in all the people he touched and in the pieces that have inspired the company to continue his designs and attract a new generation of collectors.

 

 

October 31, 2014

Haunted by Memento Mori: The “Cycles of Life” collection

 

 

From The Bejamin Zucker Cycles of  Life Collection

 

When it comes to seasonal holidays,  I am more a Valentine’s Day girl than one who celebrates Halloween. I prefer cupid’s arrow to a stake through the heart. I also prefer sentimental motifs to skull and cross bones in my jewelry. I remember my first Halloween was spent dressed as a ghost (later came princesses and cowgirls). My mom thought it would be cute to dress me as a ‘friendly ghost’ who could score bowls full of candy while I tried to see through the cut out blackened circles of the eyes and tripped over the length of my homemade costume, crafted from a white twin sheet. It was that year that I saw more grown up ghost, goblin and skeleton costumes with arms carrying shovels and pitchforks. The whole thing terrified me and I couldn’t wait to get back to the safety of my home where I could help my mom separate the wrapped from the unwrapped treats.

 

All these years later I still prefer staying at home, cozying up with a bowl of popcorn and a romantic comedy rather than a scary film. Much in the same way, as a ring collector, I prefer love tokens to Memento Mori styles. With that said, however, I am writing this Halloween post for all those of you who are collectors, purveyors and followers of these rings, created as reminders of mortality, which bear the iconography of skulls, crossbones, worms, snakes, skeletons, and other earthly remains, The idea of wearing a ring, while I am still alive, which lets me know that I will die is a bit too macabre for me. But, after seeing the detailed creations of these pieces in the Benjamin Zucker “Cycles of Life” exhibit and sale, at the launch party at Les Enluminures. I was awe-struck by the intricate design elements, craftsmanship and how these rare rings lived on in amazing condition, long after their original owners were gone.

From the Benjamin Zucker "Cycles of Life" collection  Memorial and Memento Mori Ring. This gold hoop ring is enameled black outside with a white skeleton, a skull, an hourglass, skull and crossed bones, a snake, a crossed pick and shovel; it isinscribed within WH Nov. 18 1661 NOT LOST BUT GONE BEFORE. Alock of the deceased’s hair is inside the hoop. Dated 1661

\

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The exhibit opens to the public today so before you dress up and go out to parties or take your kids trick-or-treating, it might be fun to stop by and have a peek. It’s worth it to see these rings first hand. The trick to scoring one is to have the knowledge, affinity and the financial means to be able to purchase such an exceptional, authentic piece of history.

 

 

From The Benjamin Zucker Cycles of Life collection Memento Mori Memorial Ring of the 10th Viscount Kilmorey England, c. 1700

For those whose budget won’t allow you to spring for the rings in this collection but would like to own one or more of these styles, there are also dealers throughout the US and abroad whose collections include Memento Mori rings. But, Beware! Trust who you are buying your pieces from. Over the past 10 years, the reproductions have been perfected to look like those from the 15th-18th centuries. So, before you make the grave mistake of purchasing a knock off, do you research, ask as many questions about the provenance and the condition of the ring and if anything has been changed before you buy.

 

In the meantime, Happy Halloween—be safe and have some “spooky” funand find a ring that haunts   you until you must have it.

 

From top to bottom: From the Benjamin Zucker Cycles of Life Collectiion, Memento Mori Ring with white enameling and rose diamonds, skull and crossbones motif, 17th through early 18th centuries;

From the Benjamin Zucker “Cycles of Life” collection
Memorial and Memento Mori Ring.. Dated 1661;

From The Benjamin Zucker Cycles of Life collection
Memento Mori Memorial Ring of the 10th Viscount Kilmorey
England, c. 1700

 

 

 

October 10, 2014

‘The Spy That Came in From The Rain”: Seeking the Perfect Trench

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes to fashion I am more of a uniform kind of girl. Many of use jewel-aphiles seem to be. I can’t have enough white shirts, black pants and jeans (although I try not to look like a female maitre d’ at meetings). I wear summer dresses in grey, navy, and black for the ease of looking chic while showing off my most coveted antique jewels. I wear those same colors in winter cashmere. I layer. I wear lots of scarves with longer pendants. I stock up on never-out-of-my style items: Wolford leggings in case they ‘make improvements” or discontinue my favs, like some beauty companies annoyingly do with my eye pencil and lipstick. One of my all-time wardrobe classics is a trench coat. But none have moved me in recent years, the way in which Le-Trench has.

 

Maybe it’s the effortless style of being able to wear it with everything else I own, maybe it’s how well this timelessly cool piece has been refashioned by the always stylish and savvy Dianne Vavra (Vice President of Public Relations for Dior Beauty) or how deftly she gives this new version of an cultural fashion statement the ability to show off a necklaces or create sleeves where you can see bangles or a watch. This is my kind of trench and my kind of designer. In addition, Vavra has created her Le Trench in three colors/patterns (more to come) all with romantic and historical descriptions: Le Noir-Black, Le Rouge-Red and my pick- Le Serpent. Not only does this intermix of grey/black/white pattern represent one of my all time favorite motif in jewelry—from the Roman meanings of duality of life to the sentimentality of Queen Victoria’s snake engagement ring and the entwined enduring love symbolism, which continues to live on.

 

Vavra explains, “Le Serpent is a pattern inspired by a woman who entertains adventure and doesn’t always play by the rules.” I could be that woman,” I think as I envision myself as Cleopatra laden in golden snakes jewels.

 

But, aside from my Cleopatra fantasies, I am a sucker for anything that is refashioned after vintage or period pieces and Le Trench definitely has a story to tell: After Vavra found a leopard print trench while scouring a basement of a shop in a flea market in Paris, she realized that not only did it make her outfit that day but was something that would remain in her wardrobe as an enduring staple. After many years of not seeing Diane, she was wearing her leopard print vintage trench and looked like she just stepped out of a fashion spread in Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar.
She then went about creating this iconic fashion item, made famous by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve and Marlene Dietrich and the well-dressed heroines of Alfred Hitchcock films. Think Grace Kelly in “Notorious” or Kim Novak in “Vertigo”.

 

I also love the fact that I can squish up my Le Serpent trench in my bag and then when I take it out, it is completely ready for wear. Nothing like shoving something in my already stuffed tote. But this is one trench I will be wearing rain or shine.

For Product details, please see the website: le-trench.com.

 

Although I am not one for ‘matchy matchy’ I think this works and I just might wear my new trench as soon as I get it with this Art Deco silver serpent bracelet with a simple white T-shirt and grey jeans.

 

my circa 1920s silver snake slither up the wrist bracelet  (Glorious Antiques)

my circa 1920s silver snake slither up the wrist bracelet (Glorious Antiques)

 

Bracelet: 1920s coiled serpent bracelet bought from Glorious Antiques.