Manika: An SF Treasure!

When Mankia Jewelry opened on the second block of quaint Maiden Lane about 5 years ago, I of course had to visit. Beyond the wide array of artisan jewelry they carry, I was also completely impressed by the owners, Peter and Monica Walsh. The philosophy of the store is that they want to sell amazing jewelry at a fair price–no big mark-ups and no big sales. (Personally, I think they are even under-priced!) With price points ranging from $150-$6000, there’s truly something for everyone.

Peter Walsh of Manika Jewelry
Peter Walsh, owner of Manika Jewelry

About half their lines are local designers, and the majority of their designers use reclaimed metals. (Perhaps the new “slow jewelry” movement?!) The styles they carry run the gamut from modern and edgy to more ethnic. You want silver? They’ve got it. Kimberly certified diamonds? Check. Semi-precious stones? You know it.

One designer that caught my eye was Clare Ullman, from right here in the Bay Area. (Berkeley to be exact) I loved her pieces with oxidized silver, yellow gold, and natural diamonds.

Clare Ullman jewelry
Jewelry by Clare Ullman

I was also extremely intrigued by a case of handmade silver jewelry from Laos. The workmanship is exquisite!

Laotian line at Manika
Amazing handmade jewelry from Laos

Not only does Manika offer beautiful merchandise, but they also give back. At all their trunk shows, a percentage of the profit is donated to charity. It’s truly jewelry with a heart. Be sure to stop in next time you’re in the Union Square area.

Cleaning Silver

Tarnish is the bane of my existence with my silver jewelry. Storing it in a jewelry box or a felt bag certainly cuts down on the tarnish, but nevertheless, it eventually comes.

sterling silver cuffs
sterling silver cufffs

Christine Campbell, the owner of one of my FAVE boutiques, Crimson Mim, (with locations in Los Altos and Palo Alto, CA) made a very cool video clip of a new way to tackle the tarnish. I haven’t tried it yet with my own jewelry, but she says it works like a miracle!

No more stinky creams or treated cleaning gloves for me!

Hiking Jewelry

No…I’m not kidding. Hiking jewelry has actually become a priority in my life. (Who would have ever thought it?!) I guess that’s what happens when you’re dating a very outdoorsy guy and you suddenly find yourself exploring caves and falling in rivers. I can’t be doing these activities wearing my typical earrings (too big), bracelets (might break), watch (doesn’t mix with water) or necklaces (just plain inappropriate with hiking gear). So, it’s back to the jewelry drawing board for me.

The first thing was to find a watch that wasn’t completely ugly and could take some rough and tumble action. I found the perfect line with Baby G watches. They are very reasonably priced, good in water up to 200 meters, and shock resistant. I found a fairly large selection at my local Bloomingdale’s. Of course I feel under-accessorized without a bracelet, so I complemented the watch with a leather and woven silver bracelet I had purchased in Sweden. The clasp is extremely secure, so I don’t have to worry about it falling off next time I find myself submerged…

hiking watch & bracelet
My Baby G-shock hiking watch

I think the key factors in selecting hiking bracelets (beyond the fact that they can’t look too blingy…they’ve got to have a more natural feel) are having a secure closure and being able to withstand the elements. This rules out any sort of bracelet on a string or elastic, as they can easily break. Also, toggle closures are a no-no. One idea I like is the woven leather or cord bracelets that are self-tightening. You can find them at all price points. Tai is one brand I have road-tested and they’re readily available in many stores and online. Wrap braclets with a hearty button closure are another great option, and Chan Luu is a wonderful designer of wraps. (A friend of mine has had one of these on for years, scuba-diving and all, and it still looks great.) You can find different takes on these two themes everywhere.

Now what about the perfect hiking necklace? Well, I certainly don’t recommend wearing anything too precious and it, too, must be pretty hearty. I was at Margaret O’Leary on Fillmore street in San Francisco and came across a fabulous solution! Margaret Solow makes petite pendants of semi-precious stones on a polyester/nylon cord that’s pretty much unbreakable. Sign me up!

margaret solow necklaces
Perfect hiking necklaces by Margaret Solow

Finally, the earrings. I think you’ve got to keep it pretty darn simple here, with either studs or very small hoops. Otherwise, you may find yourself with only one earring at the end of your adventure. Happy hiking! 🙂

Meredith Marks: Designer

I’m like a kid in a candy store when I attend jewelry trunk shows. When I have the opportunity to see a designer’s line that I never have seen before AND it’s tremendous, it’s like Christmas morning. That’s exactly how I felt last week when I went to see the Meredith Marks show at Angela in Menlo Park. WOW!

Meeting designer Meredith Marcks
Meeting designer Meredith Marks

The first thing that struck me about her line was it’s diversity. Some pieces had a more exotic flair, while others were polished to the nines. I also appreciate how she uses gold (in various colors), silver, and both precious and semi-precious stones, which gives her collection a wide range in price points. It is accessible jewelry to be loved and worn.

Another wonderful feature is the multi-functionality of many of her pieces. For example, she showed me a pair of larger earrings (the elongated pointed ovals on the left side of the picture below) where the dangling part comes off and can be used as a pendant on a necklace. Another necklace she showed me is the perfect length to be used as a wrap bracelet as well. With jewelry that can be used in a variety of ways, it really makes your jewelry dollar go farther.

meredith marks jewelry
A selection of Meredith Marks jewelry

Meredith started her line a couple years ago, and her passion for it is palpable as she talks with you and shows you various pieces. You can’t currently find her jewelry in any US department stores–just specialty boutiques. In my mind, this makes her line all the more coveted, as it’s truly unique. If you’re interested in seeing her jewelry, you can contact her to find where it’s sold near you.

Scale: How Big or How Small?

You may have noticed that over the years, the scale or size of jewelry goes up and down. I remember the huge plastic jewelry of the 1980’s and the petite chain and crystal necklaces from the 1990’s. (Think Monica and Rachel a la Friends) Currently, jewelry seems to be fairly large scale, though there are many choices when you go shopping. So how do you choose what to buy?

First of all, you need to get a basic understanding of what large, medium and small scale jewelry looks like. Here’s an example shown in necklaces.

large, medium, and small scale necklaces

This same guideline applies to all types of jewelry, from the thinnest of gold bands to the chunky cocktail ring…from simple diamond studs to shoulder-grazing chandelier earrings. Once you can identify the scale of a piece, you next need to decide what would work best on you.

Think about your physical being and how much “space” you occupy in the world. Are you tall? Short? Somewhere in between? And think about your skeletal frame. Just because I’m quite tall, I actually have very small bones, as shown in my tiny wrists and ankles.

Finally, think about the scale of your facial features. Do you have large eyes? A small button nose? A smile to rival Julia Roberts?

Knowing how you visually come across will help you in determining the most inherent jewelry scale for you. By inherent, I mean the scale that is most naturally pleasing and complimentary to you. For me, I can carry pretty large scale jewelry due to my height and the size of my facial features, but I need to mix it with some medium or small scale to balance out my small bones. Often, I can achieve this by layering necklaces and bracelets of different scales. (I will elaborate on how to do this in a future post.)

Now keep in mind that this is how to get an inherent look. You can also create drama by selecting a scale that you wouldn’t normally choose. For example, picture some five foot tall gal who constantly wears large, oversized necklaces–and she looks fabulous! This is because she’s making a dramatic statement with her necklaces. Plus, it may very well be part of her jewelry signature. Here’s a perfect example of creating drama with a large scale necklace:

creating drama with a large scale necklace

So take all this information and look at your jewelry with new eyes. You may get an “ah ha!” or two…