Amali by Sara Freedenfeld

When you get all your money stolen while in South America, you’d never think that it would lead to an amazing career in jewelry design, but that’s just what happened to Sara Freedenfeld. Finding herself without funds, she learned to macrame wearable art and sold her goods on the street each day. Clearly…she had talent! Soon thereafter she met a metal artist in Venezuela who taught her the basics in metalwork, and hence her life in jewelry was launched.

I was very pleased to meet Sara and see her beautiful line, Amali, at yet another one of Manika Jewelry’s amazing trunk shows.

Amali jewelry, Sara Freedenfeld
Me and Sara of Amali jewelry

With many of her pieces dripping in delicate chain, it’s clear that it’s her signature look. Rings, necklaces and earrings are all hand made in Astoria, New York of solid 18K gold, precious and semi-precious stones. This necklace, made of grey quartz and silver diamonds, woven in 18K gold is so special! It is very feminine, yet sexy at the same time.

Amali necklace
Necklace by Amali

Here are a couple pair of earrings that showcase black diamonds woven with the same 18K chain. And you know…you can never have enough hoop earrings!

Amali earrings
Moss aqua and black diamond earrings

Amali hoop earrings
Black diamond hoops

I think Sara herself sums it up quite nicely in describing her jewelry as, “a line of jewelry that delicately unites the natural simplicity of handcrafted artistry with the sophistication and glamour of high fashion.”

Travel jewelry: what should I bring??

If you don’t already know this about me, I just looooove to travel. As I type this post, I’m looking out from the 33rd floor at the Wynn Hotel onto the Strip in Las Vegas. Here for a few nights of pre-Christmas fun, I’m a happy girl!

view of the Vegas strip from the Wynn hotel
Not all bad from the 33rd floor!

While I was madly packing last night…wondering what shoes? what tops? jacket? The one thing that was pretty darn easy to pack was my jewelry. Now I know that I have already talked to you about how to get your jewelry from point A to point B in a previous post, I haven’t yet talked about what to bring!

Of course, the destination and duration of your trip will help determine this, but for the “general” 3-6 day trip, I do have a standard “to bring” list that’s pretty much guaranteed to take me anywhere from casual sightseeing to a fancier dinner out.

So here’s my packing list:

1. Watch (not too dressy, and not the one you wear at the gym)
2. Hoop earrings in your metal, be it silver, gold, etc.
3. A pair of fancy earrings–chandeliers, diamond hoops, that sort of thing (And trust me, they don’t need to be expensive–my current faces are a pair from Stella & Dot that I think cost about $45!)
4. Some sort of studs, be it diamond, cz or metal that work back with your necklaces
5. An everyday ring or set of daily stacking rings
6. A statement cocktail ring to glam it up!
7. A daily necklace
8. A statement necklace for jazzing up everything from jeans to a cocktail dress
9. Since I’m a bracelet girl, then a set of 3-5 mix and match bracelets and bangles

As we were in the security line as SFO this morning, Jeff asked, “Are you really going to wear all that through the line? Don’t you have to take it all off?” (I was wearing a watch, 5 bracelets, 3 stacking rings, my statement necklace and hoops) Well yes, I did have to take off some of it, but thanks to my friend Jen, I learned that I can leave on all “real” jewelry since that doesn’t set off the alarm, so I only had to take off half of it. Nice tip, Jen!

Remember, all the jewelry that you’re NOT wearing needs to be properly packed and in your purse — not your checked luggage, not your carry-on, and not in your significant other’s backpack. It’s valuable and it’s your responsibility!

Hope these tips help you enjoy your next holiday even more! Cheers!

Alicia Van Fleteren: Designer

When I recently attended a fundraising trunk show at a private home in Hillsborough, I saw the designer, and I just knew that I had met her before. It only took us a few minutes to figure out that we had indeed met years earlier, when her business was called Little Dot designs. Well I think the new name, Alicia Van Fleteren Jewelry, and the nine years of experience have really enhanced and broadened her line. It’s just lovely, extremely wearable and reasonably priced in the $40-$250 range.

Alicia Van Fletern
Amy, Alicia and Jen, wearing Alicia's necklaces

I appreciate how Alicia mixes pearls, stones, silver and gold with materials such as leather, linen and silk. Many of her pieces are quite delicate and are just begging to be layered. The day I attended the trunk show, I was wearing a necklace that I’ve had for some time, and there I found the ideal necklace to layer with it. They were just made for each other!

Here’s an example of some of her necklaces, which have a bit of a bohemian edge to them:

Alicia Van Fleteren necklaces
Necklaces by Alicia Van Fleteren

Not only is Alicia a talented designer, but she really believes in giving back to the community. Many of her trunk shows are fundraisers (like the one I attended), and proceeds go everywhere from Art in Action to San Mateo Family Services to local schools. (as a former 3rd grade teacher, I especially love that one!)

You can find her designs in many stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you still have some holiday shopping left to do, you may want to check her out!

Self-Gifting: What’s Your Opinion?

The post I recently put up about my “boyfriend gift” is creating quite a buzz, both in the comment section and with people I know. It turns out that there really is a wide range of emotions and stigma associated with a woman buying herself jewelry.

I started seeing this phenomenon early in my career as a personal shopper, when some of my clients were either very hesitant or would downright refuse to buy themselves jewelry. There wasn’t quite as big of an issue with less expensive, costume jewelry…but heck, throw a little diamond or ruby in there and suddenly it was a whole different ballgame.

Some women felt that all their “good” jewelry should come from their husbands or significant other. Another client stated that her husband would actually be upset if he saw her wearing something that he didn’t buy her. Really?! In the days where we can be the CEO of a company, run for office or single-handedly raise children, isn’t it OK to buy oneself something you love?

I would go as far as saying that buying yourself jewelry can actually be empowering. This is not to diminish the delight when receiving jewelry as a gift, of course, but it’s just totally different. I feel that being self-sufficient is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Knowing that you can pay your rent, put food on the table, and even buy yourself some diamond hoops if you want them are all part of building one’s self-worth.

Ladies, I believe in you! And if you want to go buy yourself something sparkly, I applaud you!

How do you feel about self-gifting?

Convertible Bracelets by Tabra

On that same trip up to the Mendocino/Fort Bragg area, I was in Sandpiper Jewelry and Gifts, and I came upon a pretty ingenious idea for a bracelet, and one that I’d never seen before. It’s a convertible bracelet where you buy the main chain part, and then you can buy different pendant-closures. So with the investment in only one bracelet, you can achieve a variety of looks just by changing out the connector!

Convertible Bracelets by Tabra

Tabra has been in the jewelry business for many years, and her extensive travel clearly is a heavy influence on her designs. The bracelets and connector pieces had a very tribal, somewhat gypsy feel. (Of course, this makes my bohemian luxe heart happy!)

This was probably my favorite one — to me it felt a little like Bali meets Byzantine.

Tabra bracelet -- Love it!

She sells her line in boutiques all over the country, including at Mosaic in SFO’s new terminal two. I love her tag line, “Women…choose your Magic carefully and keep it with you always.” That’s just how I feel about the jewelry I choose to wear each day.

The “Boyfriend Gift”

Ok…so I’m faced with a jewelry shopping dilemma this holiday season. For countless years, I’ve been buying myself a “boyfriend gift” each Christmas. My rationale was that when the holiday rolled around and I didn’t have a boyfriend, the money I would have spent on him, I would in turn buy myself a gorgeous piece of jewelry. I mean really, why should I be punished by having no boyfriend and no beautiful jewelry?! Thus, my collection has been steadily growing.

Now, come Christmas 2011, I find myself with a boyfriend, but certainly not your average man, on any level. He is homeless by choice, doesn’t own a phone, he can fit his entire wardrobe into his 20 year old duffle bag, and we most certainly agreed not to exchange gifts. (Though he could use a new duffle bag…but that’s besides the point)

So here’s my question. I have the guy, but still will not be getting any sparkly present. Don’t I deserve one? Should I amend my rule and buy myself a boyfriend gift anyways this year? I’m curious what your opinion is — please share!

The boyfriend...

Gift Ideas

Yep…it’s true! You’ve only got a few shopping weeks left until the holidays arrive. Now I know I’ve given you some tips on how to select jewelry as a gift, but I thought I’d make your life even a little bit easier with some specific gift ideas.

1. Personalized mom or grandmother jewelry is a very thoughtful gift, and there is a wide array of choices out there! Initials, birthstones, names, you can find it! One site I discovered that has a very nice selection at reasonable price points is Hearts on Your Wrist. Don’t let the name fool you, as it’s much more than just bracelets! I thought these pendants were especially versatile, as they’re not “too too” and can be layered with other necklaces.

Darling pendants from Hearts on Your Wrist

2. If you’ve got children, grandchildren, a niece or any little one in your life who loves jewelry, then a children’s jewelry making kit would be an ideal gift! I vividly remember the shoebox full of beads I had as a little girl, and the hours I spent creating the most exquisite (in my mind!) pieces! Crayola’s Model Magic Jewelry Studio is double the fun, because you actually get to design and make your own beads!

Crayola Model Magic Jewelry Studio

I also think the Bead Bazzar Sofista Bead Kits are very chic, from the packaging to the contents. They come in beautifully coordinated collections, so your creations are bound to be stunning.

Chic bead set by Bead Bazzar

3. Long ago I wrote about charm bracelets, and I still think they’re one of the best gifts around. They’re appropriate for any age, and once you start one for someone, you have a built-in gift to give them each year. Suppose that this year your gift recipient went to Paris? Or just decorated her place in a French style? Then perhaps a charm of the Eiffel Tower might be just the ticket for her! I have ordered from Precious Accents many times, and I feel it’s one of the most comprehensive sites out there.

Eiffel Tower charm by Precious Accents

4. Family heirloom jewelry is an amazing gift you may not have thought about. Usually gifted after your love one passes away, consider how wonderful it might be to give one of your treasured pieces to someone while you’re still here to see them enjoy it. I have been the lucky recipient of such amazing treasures on more than one occasion. My Aunt Jean has given me quite a few things that belonged to my grandmother, and I just adore them! In fact, just this past week I wore her big opal ring, which I can clearly picture my grandma wearing with her floor-length lavender crystal-pleated, polyester dress back in the 1970’s. To make it even more special, my aunt also gave me matching opal earrings which she herself purchased on a trip to Australia. Sooooo special!

My grandma's opal ring with my Aunt Jean's earrings

5. Cubic zirconia studs are a basic to almost any jewelry wardrobe no matter what your personal style may be, yet I’m surprised how many people don’t have them! Now of course diamond studs are fan-tabulous, but personally I love my cz’s, because I can get the carat weight I want (I think 3-4 tcw is best) without the hefty price tag. And do you think anyone can tell that they’re faux? Certainly not! I learned the hard way not to get them set in sterling, as they quickly tarnish and there goes the whole “lookin’ real” thing! Instead, I think cz set in real white or yellow gold is best. Gold, platinum or rhodium-plated sterling are also good bets. Nordstrom has many cz options, so it’s a good place to check out.

CZ studs rock!

I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and if you come up with some gift ideas you love, please share!!

Natasha Wozniak: Designer

I was very pleased to meet Natasha Wozniak (no…no relation, I asked) at a recent trunk show at Manika Jewelry in San Francisco. Her Brooklyn-based line definitely lives up to its “boldy romantic” tag line. Truth be told, I had never seen metal worked in quite this way.

Amazing necklace by Natasha Wozniak

Her pieces definitely have some visual weight to them, yet the airy scrolls don’t let them feel “heavy.” Her price point ranges from $150 to $2500, making it much more accessible than many lines sold in fine jewelry stores.

Natasha Wozniak
Amy and Natasha

Perhaps the curls and swirls in her design are inspired by her curly hair (curly girls unite!), but it really brought a feminine sensibility to an edgy, urban collection. I was intrigued to find out that Natasha had been a Fulbright Scholar in Nepal, and her experience there really influenced her design aesthetic.

She uses hand-fabricated blackened silver with 18K gold and semi-precious stones to create her dramatic pieces.

Two more exquisite necklaces by Natasha

I love when I encounter something new and unique in the world of jewelry, and this line certainly qualifies!

5 Tips for Buying Jewelry as a Gift

Black Friday is right around the corner, so you may be thinking about what to buy certain people for the holidays. Though many people think jewelry is too personal of a gift to pick out for someone else, I disagree. It’s definitely doable with some careful consideration to certain points. So here goes:

1. Think about the personal coloring and skin tone of your recipient. Do they have warm, golden skin and cool blue eyes? Then a mixed metal necklace might be just the ticket. A cool, creamy complexion with jet black hair may just adore some striking sterling silver earrings.

2. Think about the scale of the person’s physical features. This includes taking note of the size of their eyes, smile, and how tall they are. The most inherent jewelry for a person will be one that’s in harmony with their own scale. I guess the exception to this rule would be diamonds…they can never be too big, right?!

3. What’s the personal style or jewelry signature of the giftee? For people who know me, they know that they can’t go wrong with a piece with a bohemian luxe vibe: horns, tassels, buddahs, polki diamonds, etc. Someone who really thought about it would never think of giving me a necklace with a pink crystal bow on it — it just wouldn’t be me. Really think about the jewelry the person already wears, and try to picture if what you’re giving her would work seamlessly in her collection.

4. What’s their lifestyle like? A mom with babies or toddlers will love to look at those gorgeous dangling earrings, but really, when would she wear them? Just not practical. So think about what activities (sports, travel, work) the person is involved in and choose accordingly.

5. Finally, think about the “noise” factor and snagability. This piece of advice really goes for all jewelry purchases, not just when giving it as a gift. Certain pieces just make too darn much noise, like earrings that jingle every time you turn your head. Can we say annoying?! Even more so if one works in a quiet environment. Also, think about what would happen if the piece of jewelry rubs against a delicate knit or silk chiffon. Prongs that stick out, rough stones and the like may wreck havoc on the wardrobe.

So keep these tips in mind when heading to the mall on the November 25th. Bring those, patience and parking karma, and you’ll be all set to find the perfect gift for that special someone in your life.

The gift of jewelry!