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Archive for August, 2010

Pearl Girls


Part two of this week’s three-part blog.

Remember when pearls used to conjure up images of pristine preppies, predictable bridal jewelry and the cultured strands you used to play with in your grandmother’s jewelry box?  Although Coco Chanel did much in her day to totally revitalize and modernize pearls (mixing real and faux, layering multi-strands and adding large gem encrusted Maltese crosses), throughout the 20th century pearls kept returning to their more  tradition roots. Many designers and infamous jewelry houses during this period tried to infuse pearls with an elegance and glamor, succeeding only for short periods of time- mostly when draped around the necks of Jackie O and Grace Kelly.

My own recollections included sitting next to my mom in the mirror and watching her dress up in her Jackie O-style strands.  But, just a few year  later  she was trading them in for love beads, peace sign pendants and woman’s lib.  That was the thing about pearls, there was always a movement or a trend or shift in society that took over and kept pearls in their proper place.

The first time I ever really wore pearls was upon receiving my first bridesmaid’s gift in my twenties of a very basic teardrop shaped fresh water earring, dangling from a sterling silver wire. Not long after, I counted approximately ten similar pairs bestowed upon me for my role in wedding parties–many either in natural or, yes, dyed to match hues — to go with the dress. You remember–the dress–flammable fabrics, fashioned in colors and silhouettes that flattered  no actual woman–but definitely complemented  the decor and table settings of the bride’s venue.

I’m not sure  about your friends and relatives, but most of mine who were getting married (and were gracious enough to have me as a bridesmaid), practiced equality: every body type got the exact same dress silhouette and every face shape and skin tone, the same drop pearl earring.

Later in my early thirties I wore Karl Lagerfeld and Moschino’s high fashion versions of big chunky button pearls and curb chain mixtures that evoked a sort of Haute motorcycle chic.  This look lasted for about 12 minutes for me. My only long-term relationship with pearls was with the tiniest of natural seed pearls chokers, two antique styles from the Edwardian era.

Needless to say, I had no passion for pearls.   And, when I think back, the one piece I could never imagine myself wearing-  a pearl ring.

Then, three years ago I met Danish designer Lene Vibe Dahlgren. The minutes I set my gaze upon her magical 3-D fairytale-like garden motif surrounding a creamy baroque pearl (for her collection, Vibes)  I had to have it. Immediately. Love at first sight. Passion ignited.  Before I even tried it on, I knew that I would wear it on what ever finger it would fit and I purchased it on the spot. I now own three different styles of her rings in lustrous natural shades as well as her enchanting, poetic and sometimes whimsical and one-of-kind baroque South Sea and Keshi pearl pendants with and without rough cut diamonds on both chain and leather cord.

I am also a fan of Nina Basharova’s rough and refined looks of irregularly shaped pearls held by stylized 18K gold versions of barbed wire. Autore’s dazzling sea life and antique motifs elevate pearls to a collectible art form.  There are also designers such as Gabrielle Sanchez who mix various natural pearls in inventive shapes, working long Biwa and Keshi pearls into flowers and cross motifs, and, most recently, the return and update  of Wendy Brigode’s ‘Tin Cup” necklace (the station pearl strand in the film of the same name that graced Renee Russo’s neck and spawned years of imitations). Both of these designers offer contemporary and often sexy alternatives for all women and a welcome, personalized and unbridled approach to wedding jewelry and gifts for your most treasured friends.

Just recently, after many years of  finally vowing to be only  a guest rather than a participant in the bridal  party, I was asked to be witness for a good friend’s second wedding. I wore my own dress and my own Vibes gray pearl and rough diamond earrings. And, I embraced my new and enduring role as a pearl girl (okay, maybe pearl ‘woman’).



Gabrielle Sanchez

Bringing Home the Gold

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After my last two blogs entries (on my experience with turquoise throughout the years and with spiritual jewelry), I began to mull over how , like everything else in life, certain jewelry is attached, not only to personal memories but to very specific connotations, status and stereotypes. But, in the past 10 or so years, some pioneering and inventive fine jewelry designers have done much to dispel our more conventional and sometimes negative associations with various styles in jewelry.

I’ll be addressing some of these styles in a three-part blog this week:

A few years ago while wearing the seven graduated yellow gold talisman chains (I recently wrote about in Lifting the Spirits), I flew over to Rome to spend time with the guy I was seeing at the time. I was dressed in a black cashmere cardigan, with a hint of black La Perla lace peeking out, black slim pants and Prada ballet slippers. The minute he saw me, he gave me the once over, and bluntly asked– “what happened to your elegant taste? You look like an aging Sicilian woman praying to the saints.”

As a guy, he had no problem with the lace cami, as an Italian, who understood fashion, he got the idea of basic black for traveling, but the overall effect was one that conjured up a look, that, while inspirational for Dolce & Gabbana, left my Milanese-born man confused.

While I thought I looked quite fashionable– and was initially hurt by his statement–I came to understand it. The image I had evoked for him was more of the grieving Sicilian widow, Anna Magnani played in The Rose Tatoo, then the playful, style-conscious Manhattanite he had thought he was dating.

For me, there was also a time that yellow gold conjured up less than high fashion images. Throughout the ’80s, I came to associate it with flashy divas, who danced the night away in glittery lame, accentuated by gaudy accessories that reminded me of shimmering disco balls. I was a white metal girl back then: yellow was all about generic hollow bangles, huge hoops, mesh bibs: the jewelry of women with long red fingernails and big hair: Think the beginning scenes in Working Girl and nocturnal wannabes in stiletto heels, waiting endlessly on line and at clubs such as Area and Odeon and you’ve got the picture. At the time, (if I must admit it) I lived in the Northern part of the Garden State and this look also came to represent everything I never want to be. (read: ‘The real women’ from “Jersey Shore”)

When I started writing about jewelry for magazines in the 90s, designers kept trying to bring back yellow gold and finally, sometime around 2001-2002 there was a major revitalization, no longer a trend trying to lose its bad rep, but a category of jewelry that is here to stay. Whether shown over the past years in symbolic pendants or the ultra fine lace inspired cuffs of Barry Kronen.the high karat, highly textured hand of Gurhan, the fanciful and ornate contrasts of Arman’s gold, highlighted by blackened silver and popped by beautiful gemstones, the artful simplicity of Stephanie Albertson, the sprinkle of sparkle of the bezel set styles of Annie Fensterstock, the intricately detailed work of Jamie Wolf and the delicate stardust hand texture by Yasuko Azuma, there are a plethora of pieces from ancient-inspired to bohemian global: cool, chic and collectible. While I still wear my gold layered, my fashion choices tend toward more pleasing and tonal neutrals of greys, browns and stone colors, except of course when I pop into a Dolce & Gabbana shop, buy black and savor the design duo’s Sicilian roots.

Stay tuned for my next installment on Wednesday on my ‘Un-Bridled’ Passion for Pearls–


Stephanie Albertson

Yasuko Azuma

Annie Fensterstock

Lifting the Spirits

ME & RO 18K Gold Medium Ritual Bell Pendant with Indian Diamond. Its sound is said to drive away evil spirits. In the form of a lotus flower, each petal is engraved with one of the symbols of the eight goddess offerings.

The opening of the film Eat, Pray, Love, based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book (which I am going to see tonight and which I read when it first came out) started me thinking about my own journey with various cultures and my attempt at being more centered and spiritual, when I realized I was continually trying to ward off bad luck instead of trying to attract good fortune.

There was the time I went for a chakra facial–primarily because there were gems involved, and as an added bonus, one of the seven chakras is your heart, where the facialist placed a rose quartz, which I hoped would help open me up to a new and– shall we say– more balanced romance in my life. While unsure if the stones worked, I definitely felt more relaxed, peaceful and content.  But, realizing I was running late for an appointment, I begin to rush… face first into the spa’s plate-glass door.

“Quite lucky you didn’t break it,” the doctor said the next day about my nose, which had swelled up to three times the size and turned various shades of black, blue and green. On the way out of his office, I became enlightened to the fact that I needed to slow down.

I’ve tried in the past to incorporate methods from various Eastern cultures into my life. But none seemed to take.

First came meditation.  For two months, while the rest of the group was discovering the mind/body relationship and realizing certain goals through a higher consciousness, I fell asleep.  It seemed, the instructor informed me, that I only knew two states of being, “stressed out or conked out.”

Years later it was Feng Shui.  My friend had just done his apartment and wanted to give mine a try.  But after we’d changed to position of mirrors, sharp-edged tables, added plants and colors to specific areas, he told me that my bathroom was in the worst place it could be and if there was any hope for my love life, I’d have to move.  Determined to hold onto my large one bedroom New York City apartment, I decided to take my chances.

But chance is not a word I rely on when it comes to my superstitions.   A frequent but fearful flier, I was (still am?) convinced that my last twenty some odd trips to Europe have been safely guided, not by control towers and careful pilots, but by wearing a thick silver chain dangling with weighty silver amulets.  This hefty rosary is a concoction of charms that my friends and family gave to me over the years.  The heavy metal makes the security beepers go off and my neck begins to feel like it should be in traction by the time I’m on the ground. But, the plane (knock on wood) has always landed.

When I’m not walking into plate glass doors or avoiding the possibility of plane crashes, my personal jewelry style supersedes superstition.  Authentic period or antique inspired styles are on the top of my list. As far as contemporary jewelry, I prefer delicate pieces that I can layer and stack, mine and rose cut diamonds and rubies.   I also wear huge men’s vintage watches and cuff links.

However, a couple of years back, after having my tarot cards read at a party, it occurred to me that I have been indulging my irrational beliefs and negative thoughts, “what if-ing” too much, and instead I decided, to try once again, to be more spiritual and do things that invited positive energy into my life.

Giving up my aerobics of Latin Grooves or sculpt classes at the gym for chanting and meditative yoga was just not a sacrifice I was willing to make after working out for years to get my abs and gluts in shape.

But purchasing and wearing spiritual and well-designed talisman jewelry was definitely something I could manage.

Off went my diamonds and platinum and on went high carat gold delicate medallions in varying length chains.

The first piece I chose was a small 18K gold Me &Ro medallion with a lotus leaf in the center for renewal, transformations and new beginnings. (Translation: forget commitment phobic ex boyfriend and find new one.)

Next I layered a rough-cut aquamarine for courage and a better understanding of others and myself. (Maybe this summer I will manage a week vacation with my family without wanting to strangle a sister-in-law.)

At 18 inches, I clasped on a Ganesha etched pendant, the God of strength and fortitude, which promotes success by removing obstacles.  (I would stop stubbing my toe on the magazines pile that doubles as an end table in my apartment.  A more organized living space would eventually lead to an uncluttered mind. )

Dangling at 22” was a flat cut diamond set Tree of Life by Coomi that evokes deeper grounding and faith. This is obviously something I need more of in all aspects of my life.

I wore four other charms/pendant that hung at varying lengths with symbolic meanings and motifs.

Reluctant about the rules regarding weakening the power of my new necklaces by taking them off to shower and sleep, I decided not to risk it and woke up every morning to untangling seven chains.  Add to that, nothing seemed to change or be happening.

Not known for my patience, I was about to retire my “good luck” charms to the recesses of my jewelry box when I notice they made for an extremely fashionable look.  Worst case, if they didn’t work, at least I’d be draped in the latest trends of yellow gold, layering, rough cut stones, medallions and charms.

The trend continued in popularity and I change them up for a variety of talisman and meaningful pieces, I’ve collected over the years. I’ve also learned fly without my silver amulets, almost got the hang of rhythmic breathing in my new yoga class, try and believe in the good, let go of a little control and have some faith.  And, as a diamond and platinum girl by nature, I’ve also mastered a few creative combinations of mixing spirituality with a bit of bling.

Dogeared's gold dipped engraved lotus pendant, representing new beginnings.

Dogeared's gold dipped engraved lotus pendant, representing new beginnings

Here are some designers I recommend who have some beautifully crafted symbolic pieces. Designers working primarily in gemstones: geodes, minerals rough and raw cuts: Jamie Joseph, Melissa Joy Manning, Kimberly McDonald and Lena Skadegard jewelry For motif driven styles: ME & RO, whose designer Robin Renzi’s vision jump started the trend for spiritual jewelry that is also fashionable. Her pieces, which have featured in many films and TV shows, are worn by longtime fan Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray Love. (Roberts also wore Renzi’s jewelry in The Mexican and Notting Hill as well). Other designers working in this medium who create alluring pieces Mauri Pioppo, Sofia Kaman for Kamofie and Dogeared, whose founder, Marcia Maizel-Clarke has always offered a host of contemporary versions of spiritual and message collections  and has now partnered with Sony Pictures for the license for Eat Pray Love by Dogeared jewelry.

Mauri Pioppo's pendant representing an Avatar in its celestial grace resonates with us to live in our highest potential. With Rainbow Moonstone in 14K gold and diamonds

Jamie Joseph's Twin rock crystal and rose gold pendant with oxidized silver chain. Rock crystal has various meanings including enlightenment

Sofia for Kamofie Designs Tree of Life Locket in 18K gold symbolizing grounding and faith

©2010B-Jeweled. Beth Bernstein. All Rights Reserved.

Stoned Love

Lika Behar

Recently I attended a jewelry trade show in New York City and was holding a pair of turquoise and gold earrings up to my ears, when a colleague told me how they brought out the blue in my eyes. I suddenly had a flashback to when I was 12 and was watching my mom get dressed. She said exactly the same thing, while dangling her Zuni turquoise and sterling earrings close to my face. It was during the early seventies, after she and my dad got divorced. She was reading Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, going to EST and doning clothes and jewelry that represented the youth culture (read: everything that I too was wearing). She was also dating a younger gorgeous French Canadian artist, who also wore turquoise: in beads knotted with leather cording around his wrist. I was pre-teen in a time when this particular stone represented freedom, feminism, left-over hippies and moms who were finally putting aside Dr Spock parenting to live out their own youth.

My first piece of turquoise was given to me two years earlier, when, in fifth grade, a boy asked me to go steady with a sterling silver and turquoise ring. Three weeks later, after it turned my finger green, the boy broke my young heart when he changed his mind, took back the band, and gave it to one of my closest friends instead. Recently, while hearing stories from my nephews, I remembered that this is actually how long relationships last when you are pre-adolescent. Somehow this knowledge didn’t help back then.

Later in high school, American Indian jewelry was back in style as were early ’60s fashions: peasant shirts and rainbows motifs, which I artfully embroidered on my left Levis jeans pocket (thankfully 501 boot cut rather than bell bottoms). I owned two cuff bracelets with chunks of greenish turquoise and a pair of deep blue and silver chin length dangles.

I started making body chains in college with tiny little turquoise beads and delicate chain that would sit between my waist and my hips. One would think I was going out belly dancing rather that to a Disco, where they played songs like It’s Raining Men.

The next time I wore turquoise, I was turning thirty. My boyfriend, a humorous but barely-scraping -by writer, handed me a small box. At this point I knew the relationship would not last–not because I would have preferred an engagement ring– not because he re-gifted a band his college girlfriend gave to him–but because it was almost the exact same inlaid style that I received from the guy in fifth grade. Not only was I choosing similar men. They were giving me the same jewelry.

< Not long after, I dated a guy who said that my eyes were the color of turquoise and that he could see forever in them. Forever came a week later, when I found out he was seeing a woman with whom he worked and whose eyes were the same hue as…smoky topaz.

I have had very mixed emotions about turquoise. I’ve learned that it’s one of the earliest protective amulets from various cultures and ranges in meaning from luck, good fortune, friendship and courage. But, you can understand why I might be a little skeptical: my experience with the stone represented failed relationships with more than one guy. In addition, fine jewelry enthusiasts couldn’t help but equate turquoise with the same 70s I grew up in, conjuring up caftans and artist communities and for me, personally, the days of my parent’s divorce, my mom’s dressing like me and snagging a cuter boyfriend than I had.

Since then,the only time I pulled out my American Indian jewelry was when I found out, last-minute, that I’d be trick or treating with my niece and nephews (then 10, 7 and 5, respectively). I had to come up with a costume on the fly and grabbed a suede skirt, denim shirt, old Tony Lama boots, and accessorized with my Zuni earrings, cuffs and a turquoise tipped leather lariat I found. Okay, the small Stetson that was part of my youngest nephew’s everyday playacting didn’t hurt. But I am convinced that my cowgirl Halloween outfit was made by the jewelry.

When I finally began to perfect my own style, I realized that I did like certain pieces laden with these stones. I preferred the Victorian looks of turquoise pave set hearts and sentimental styles: lockets and posy rings accented by tiny cabochons. I also realized that the warmth of gold imbued turquoise with quite a different feeling then I had known.

Then, around ten or so years ago, I started noticing designers such as Cathy Waterman, Loree Rodkin, Cathy Carmendy and Ten Thousand Things were showing turquoise with gold from the most delicate of dangling beads to more substantial stones with diamond accents. It was a look that had antique or ancient inspirations, which I found intriguing in the real thing, but with a new modern spin. These designers helped give turquoise a complete makeover from what it had come to represent in the US.

Not long after, companies with a spiritual or meaningful slant such as ME&RO, Satya Jewelry and Dogeared used small turquoise beaded necklaces to dangle symbolic pendants and discs. And of course there were power beads. Everywhere.

Although individualistic designers never stopped including the soothing hues of this gem in their collections, the major trend towards turq quieted down, But it seems to be back in a big way. Pantone deemed it’s PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise, as the Color of the Year for 2010. So, it’s definitely time to resurrect your antique or contemporary pieces , your pendants on beads if you have them, or go out purchase some original looks that combine the best of vintage, ancient and modern.

All of the interest is in high karat gold. Some of my favorite looks are the long teardrop earrings and bold irregular shaped turquoise pendant with the serpent motif at Lika Behar, the large oval rose cut turquoise extra long bezel set pendants and simple cuffs at Dawes Designs, the Gobi turquoise pieces at Gurhan, which are ultra rich looking in 24K gold, the delicate bezel set delicate turquoise cabochon necklace at Katie Diamond in varying lengths.. Erica Courtney showed beautiful turquoise rectangular shaped earrings that are held by more delicate crown pave prongs. Anzie does an entire collection with the stones as the focal point in simple gold settings.

Personally, I believe that all color –in high-end, fine pieces –is seasonless. If the fashion industry could get women to wear white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, I stand firm about wearing turquoise year round as well. For me it’s a stone that will always make my eyes seem bluer and remind me that life is a series of experiences that when you glance back, might make you smile and remind you of how you can change.


Cathy Waterman

Katie Diamond

©2010B-Jeweled. All Rights Reserved.