Gretchen Ventura: Designer

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just “click” with people, and I can start chatting with them as if we’ve known each other for years. This was exactly the case when I stopped by Betty Lin (one of my absolute favorite boutiques in San Francisco) for the Gretchen Ventura jewlery trunk show. No joke, within about 10 minutes we were bonding over health issues from our past and laser hair removal! Gretchen’s warm, welcoming personality is the perfect complement to her killer jewlery line. So that you can get to know her and her collection a bit, enjoy this series of questions and answers.

amy roseveare and gretchen ventura
You made the transition from tech to jewelry three years ago. What inspired you to do so?

After a life-altering/threatening illness I gained many insights. One of the strongest was that while I enjoyed and spent my entire professional career in technology (and primarily the use of my left brain),  I considered myself an artist.  I did not wish to leave this lifetime without using the right side of my brain!

gretchen ventura bracelet wtih diamond pendant
Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?

I find myself in the flow when I am creating my work. My belief system is all about balance, or the middle path, and so I am drawn to the mix of luxe and raw, organic and fine. The work lends itself to a sense of timelessness, with the use of old and patina’d materials, as well as the truth of our interconnectedness. Found objects from far away and ancient times allows me, the creator, as well as the wearer, an experience of a soulful connection to all that came before — what is present and the mystery of what is yet to unfold.

gretchen ventura necklaces
gretchen ventura horn pendant
What’s your current favorite piece or two in your collection?

Much of my work is long, languid and layered (like life), but right now I am loving the choker–raw leather with the elegance of a bit of diamond–or the crocodile cuffs with diamond plates on them. Both signify strength, boldness and whimsy.

gretchen ventura choker
gretchen ventura choker with pendant
gretchen ventura croc and diamond bracelet
What is your goal as a jewelry designer with regards to sharing your work with the world?

I struggled a bit when I started designing and creating jewelry, as I really wish to be purposeful in my work. Then, in a seminal moment, truly understood that bringing beauty is a spiritual pursuit (and one of my favorite kundalini teachers used to call me “bringer of beauty” long before this work). When one wears something soulful and beautiful, it elevates one’s experience. When you feel more beautiful and connected to others, you can’t help but bring more kindness, care and love into your world.

gretchen ventura wrap bracelet
What do you find are the biggest challenges and joys as a jewlery designer?

The biggest challenge for me is finding the right manner in which to connect my work with those who may resonate with it — the right stores, an online/social presence, the right markets. Secondly, to create pieces which resonate with me, given the components (ancient talismans or beads, or fine gems such as diamonds), which can be purchased at a price point that works in the market.

The joys are being a part of experiencing someone’s wonder or happiness as they try on a piece and feel beautiful wearing it!!!

amy roseveare wearing gretchen ventura necklace
When you’re not busy in your studio, how do you spend your free time?

I love to work out, do yoga, try new restaurants, hike, read, travel and see friends!!

For those visiting your town (Minneapolis, MN), what’s your favorite:
restaurant: Burch Steak or Café Lurcat
store: Grethen House or D.NOLO
gallery/museum: The Walker or Mia

gretchen ventura layered necklaces

Gretchen and her gorgeous jewelry!
Gretchen and her gorgeous jewelry!

So wonderful to meet you, Gretchen! I look forward to keeping up with you and seeing how your line keeps growing and evolving.

Accessorize Me: Caftans

My caftan collection has grown by leaps and bounds the past few years. Why do I like wearing them? Well…they are very comfortable, breezy, figure-forgiving, and they just put me in a festive state of mind.  Gotta love a piece of clothing that does that, right?  I’ve worn them during the day, to weddings, to parties, you name it. If you’ve never considered wearing one, I thought I’d show you some ways to style them, from head to toe. But first things first; you may find caftans in the swimwear section, the sleepwear area, or in with regular merchandise. But don’t pigeon-hole them just because they came from a department you don’t normally consider for clothing to wear out of the house or beyond the beach. It’s all about how you put your look together!

First, let’s look at a couple caftans that have a print. Two that caught my eye are these from Scotch and Soda (the white one with pink and green trim) and Theodora & Callum (the animal print with turquoise trim).

Scotch & Soda:Maison Scotch Pom Pom Caftan
Theodora & Callum Cheetah Paisley Print Caftan
So what type of shoes would you wear with these? I would opt for a fun flat, either with embellishment if you want to take it up a notch, or perhaps with some fringe detail for a more bohemian feel. (But don’t worry, heels can work too!)

menbur acedera embellished flat sandal
marc fisher crystal tassel flat sandal
You may also want to go solid-color for your caftan of choice. I found two gorge white numbers in the swim cover-up area. The one by Florabella has some unique lace insets, and the one from Ondade Mar has crochet stripes and a nice drawstring right under the bustline, which is a very flattering detail.

Florabella Tivoli Lace-Inset Long Caftan Coverup
Ondade Mar Oasis Hues Long Caftan
Now don’t worry — I’m not going to send you out of the house in a sheer caftan! I have found the perfect solution to this issue with Natori Shangri-La nightgowns. Yes, you read that right, a nightgown. I personally own two in black and two in nude. I have hemmed one of each color to above the knee to accommodate shorter caftans and other sheer dresses. They are machine wash/drip dry and soft as can be, along with having adjustable straps. They skim over your curves, instead of clinging to them, and they provide an alluring, yet appropriate silhouette under the caftan.

natori shangri-la gown
For these two white caftans, I’m thinking Grecian sandals for the shoe. You can easily go with a flat or with a heel. Splendid has a cute flat, as well as Rebecca Minkoff if you don’t like anything between your toes. Sofft (one of my favorite comfort lines) has a modified Grecian wedge if you’d like some height.

splendid candee wraparound lace flat sandal
rebecca minkoff greyson ghillie sandal
sofft cassie platform wedge sandal
Now what about jewlery?? This is another aspect of the caftan I simply adore. It calls for you to pile it on a bit! You can do big earrings, an armful of bangles, and even a long swingy necklace! Here are some key pieces that would pair well with your caftan. First, let’s look at earrings. I love long earrings with my caftans. You can find options ranging from more simple, to bold and colorful. Here are possibilities along that spectrum from Shashi, Theia Jewelry, Aurelie Bidermann, Adia Kibur and Deepa Gurnani.

shashi tusk earrings
theia jewlery cascading emmie earrings
aurelie bidermann sculpted tribal earrings
adia kibur erica earrings
deepa gurnani kimeo earrings
For bracelets, one of the key factors is to select those that won’t “catch” your dress fabric. Delicate fabrics (which many caftans are) require bracelets that are smooth to the touch, so be particularly careful of stones with prong settings. You can go with bangles, cuffs, or a combo. Anything from sculptural to beaded can work, depending on your personal style. Here’s some pieces from Elizabeth and James, Kenneth Jay Lane, Argento Vivo, Lacey Ryan and Karine Sultan to get you thinking.

elizabeth and james northern star cuff bracelet
kenneth jay lane polished gold 8 stack bracelet
argento vivo studios wide cuff
lacey ryan ibiza bracelet set
karine sultan four row cuff
Depending on your earring choice, you can select a necklace that is more delicate, such as this one from Tai.

tai labradorite wing necklace
…or go big with a statement necklace (though be careful to select complementary, not competing earrings) from Elizabeth Cole.

eliazbeth cole gold fringe necklace
…or take this opportunity to play with the tassel trend, from Madewell to Luciana.

madewell double tassel layering necklace
luciana tassel necklace
Your choice of rings is purely a matter of personal style, and you really can’t go wrong with anything from simple to stacking to a bolder option. They key to the whole jewlery selection is to choose pieces that blend, rather than “match.” Consider your style — more simple and sleek? Dainty layers? Bohemian? Avant garde? A caftan is the perfect backdrop to really showcase your personality with the accessories you choose.

So on that note, I need to head to my closet. I’ve got a trip to Las Vegas coming up, and I need to see which of my lucky caftans will have a chance to come party with me!

Vintage Silver: Jewelry Judge

I know it’s been months and months since my last Jewelry Judge post, but I was just waiting to find the right subject…and I think it was worth the wait! I was recently lunching in Palo Alto, and this woman’s jewlery really caught my eye. While her outfit (pants, fun shoes, silky top and jacket) was lovely, it’s her jewlery that spoke volumes without her even having to say a word. Here’s the bracelets adorning her wrist.

vintage bracelet stack
vintage silver bracelets
In speaking with her, I learned the wider cuff was made by her mom when she was in high school during the 1940’s. Believe it or not, jewlery making was an actual class she took at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Jose, CA!! Say what?! The exotic bracelet it’s paired with was purchased by a distant relative (a cousin of her husband’s grandfather) on a trip to Asia in the 1950’s. She was a world traveler and her dad co-designed the Ellis Island Immigration Station — too cool.

Then, there’s the necklace she was wearing. She purchased it as a high schooler while in Copenhagen during the 1970’s. She and one of her BFFs were on a summer-long trek around Scandinavia visiting relatives. Oh, how I would have loved to be doing that at her age. (Or even now, for that matter!)

vintage pendant from copenhagen
So here she was, in a very modern outfit, wearing jewelry that was 40-75 years old. And the result? I wanted to get to know her. Her jewlery choices showed she had stories to tell, she was confident in her own personal style and it all just worked. She told me, “I have many jewelry treasures from far-flung places, family and friends. Wearing them provides happy reminders of treasured memories and dear ones, in addition to showing up in something uniquely mine.”

The Jewelry Judge definitely gives this woman two thumbs up! It also inspires me to take a close look at my jewlery box and see if I can put some vintage items back into the rotation.

Arik Kastan: 11 Favorite Pieces

Ever since I bought myself an Arik Kastan three-moonstone ring for Christmas a couple years ago from Twist, I’ve become a BIG fan of this vintage-inspired line. When Tamar Kelman, the creative director of the line, had a trunk show in Marin a year or so ago, another ring just maaay have gone home with me. Just maybe.

Arik Kastan is a jewlery designer based in Tel Aviv, and he utilizes old world jewelry making techniques.  From sketch to finish, all work is done by hand, even the links on the necklaces! Tamar told me, “There’s a heartbeat to every piece.” Well-known for his particular alloys of rose gold and yellow gold, his work is inspired by the Victorian era, Art Deco, as well as old Arabic and European architecture. I want to share 11 of my fave pieces from this delectable collection with you…

Double Gypsy Cigar Band with moonstones

arik kastan double gypsy cigar band with moonstones
Cobblestone Ring with rose-cut diamonds

arik kastan cobblestone ring with rose cut diamonds
Victoria Bangle in turquoise

arik kastan victoria bangle in turquoise
Tiara Evil Eye Ring with blue sapphires and turquoise

arik kastan tiara evil eye ring in turquoise and sapphires
Cocktail ring in labradorite and blue sapphires

arik kastan labradorite and blue sapphire cocktail ring
Buckle Ring with garnets

arik kastan buckle ring with garnets
Tree of Life Padlock with Labradorite

arik kastan tree of life padlock in labradorite
Marchioness Ring with turquoise and rose-cut diamonds

arik kastan marchioness ring in turquoise and rose-cut diamonds
Five-Stone Canoe Band with turquoise and sapphires

arik kastan five-stone canoe band with turquoise and sapphires
Needlepoint Drop Earrings in turquoise

arik kastan needlepoint drop earrings in turquoise
Peacock Ring with opals and a rose-cut diamond

arik kastan peacock ring with diamond and opals
So how’s that for some eye candy?! Now I hope you can understand why I’ve become such a big fan. Which piece would you pick as your favorite? I’m looking forward to seeing Tamar at the Couture show in Las Vegas and exploring the new designs!

What To Do With Rings That No Longer Fit?

Have any of you ever asked yourself this? I know I have. I’m sure the first thing that popped into your head was “have them sized!” And this certainly is a fair response. In fact, I just sent a ring back to a designer which I purchased 40 pounds ago. (I can’t wait to start wearing it again!)

But while out and about recently, I came across another very clever solution. This lovely woman had strung some rings her husband had given her, which didn’t currently fit, onto a thick leather cord. Combined with the pearl pendant, it really makes a striking combination.

using rings as necklace pendants
Even better — these rings, which are so meaningful to her, are now worn right next to her heart. I think it’s downright cool. Here’s another shot, closer view.

using rings as pendants
I think the heavy leather cord really shows them off, as opposed to putting them on a small-scale chain, where they wouldn’t be laid out as nicely. So…just wanted to share this with you. What do you think?


Gumuchian had me at jewelry that is “designed by women for women.” I wanted to find out more, so I was pleased to have the opportunity at the Couture show in Las Vegas. Founded over 30 years ago by Anita Gumuchian and her daughters, Myriam and Patricia, this line has both range and personality. I tried on everything from ornate diamonds to whimsical rings. I want to share three parts of their line that really struck a chord with me.

The first is The Ring Cycle (part of their G boutique), which is a lovely ring that converts into a bracelet. Say what? Yep — really! Here’s the ring on my finger…

gumuchian ring
And here it is on my wrist in bracelet form…

gumuchian bracelet
Do you want to know how the transformation happened? Then take a peek at this 20 second video I filmed.

This piece was designed by Patricia based on something her mother had seen as a little girl while at a Turkish bazaar. It took a couple years to get the design just right, but she nailed it! The bracelet is “a daisy chain of concentric gold rings to remind you that however far family members may travel, they remain closely connected at the center.” Love that.

As I was trying on the jewels, I learned that Anita, now in her 8th decade, still walks to work every day! She is known as the “colored stones acquisiton-ist” and selects all the colored stones for their designs. Their collection is hand made in their Manhattan workshop.

I was also eager to learn about their B collection, in which a portion of proceeds to go to support the struggling bee population. I first tried on a few of the rings from this group.

gumuchian b rings
No need to explain where the design came from! It’s even more clear in this awesome cuff, with diamonds of honey enmeshed in the gold honeycomb.

gumuchian cuff
Are charm bracelets your style? Then Gumuchian has you covered there as well. Each charm has a bail, so you can change them around, use them as a pendant, etc.

gumuchian b charm bracelet
A final part I wanted to share with you is their ice cream collection. Yes, you read that correctly! They have a group of rings in the shape of waffle cones topped with gem ice-cream, which pays homage to their Belgian heritage. It turns out that Belgium is the home of the waffle, (Who knew?!) and eating ice-cream from these special cones is a true delight. I have on the strawberry ice-cream cone, which features a rhodochrosite center and pink sapphire accents.

gumuchian ice cream ring
gumuchian strawberry ice cream ring
Isn’t it just so much fun? I thought you’d like that. And I completely understand if it inspires you to visit your local ice-cream shop today for a scoop or two. (I recommend two.) I so enjoyed learning about this company and exploring their designs, and I hope you did as well.


hanging with Patricia Gumuchian
hanging with Patricia Gumuchian


May Birthstone: Emerald

Emeralds, known as the “stones of successful love” are considered one of the four “precious” stones — the others being diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Found as far back as 4000 BC, emeralds were one of Cleopatra’s favorite gems. In fact, the Egyptians believed they signified eternal life, so very often mummies were buried with an emerald. The word emerald come from the Greek word “smaragdus” which translates to “green stone.” Emeralds are mined around the globe, including countries such as Columbia, Brazil, and Afghanistan, to name a few. The more vibrant the green, the more valuable the stone.

This dazzling green gem also has many purported qualities for the wearer, which include:

-symbol of rebirth and growth
-inspires hope for the future
-promotes friendship
-brings contentment
-stone of wisdom and mental clarity
-activates creativity
-encourages one to live life to the fullest

With this new knowledge, I set off to find some pieces that piqued my emerald interest. In no particular order…

Judy Geib Colombian Emerald and Herkimer Diamond drop earrings

judy geib colombian emerald and herkimer diamond double drop earrings
Emerald bubble bezel ring

emerald bubble bezel ring
Renee Lewis emerald shake drop earrings

renee lewis emerald shake drop earrings
Arik Kastan emerald and opal round mandala ring

arik kastan emerald and opal round mandala ring in 14k rose gold
Gillian Conroy rosecut emerald drop earrings

gillian conroy 14k thorn hooks with pear rosecut emerald earrings

Jennifer Meyer emerald rectangle stacking ring

jennifer meyer emerald rectangle stacking ring
Dezso emerald and black enamel Jali shark fin cuff bracelet

dezso emerald and black enamel jali shark fin cuff bracelet
Temple St. Clair emerald and diamond trio earrings

temple st. clair emerald, diamond and 18K yellow gold trio earrings
Jenny Kwon emerald and diamond Lexi ring

jenny kwon emerald, diamond and gold lexi ring
Variance Objects emerald five-stone claw ring

variance objects emerald five stone claw ring
So do any of these pieces make you green with jewelry envy? What would be your top pick if you had a bottomless wallet? And if you have a birthday this month, I hope all your birthday wishes come true!!

Maiyet Jewelry

You may be familiar with Maiyet’s luxurious clothing line, but did you know they also have both fashion and fine jewelry lines? Though I had seen their signature skinny bangle on one of my clients a couple years back, I had no idea what range they have in their collection until I encountered their booth at the Couture show.

First I’d like to show you some very stylish pieces from their fashion line. Here’s a pair of natural horn earrings. You will find quite a bit of horn across their collection. But have no fear, their materials are very ethically sourced.

maiyet natural horn earrings
In fact, that’s one of the things I love most about this company. They are very devoted to partnering with artisans around the globe, preserving their techniques and promoting “self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship in developing economies.” They strive to protect our planet and its resources. Even with their cashmere used in their clothing line, they have partnered with the Gobi Revival Fund and goat herders in outer Mongolia to create “the world’s first ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable cashmere yarn in the world.” How wonderful is that?

Ok, now back to the jewlery… Here are a couple rings and a cuff from their Empire collection, made of 18K gold-plated brass. I’m sure you can see how New York City architecture was an inspiration for this group.

maiyet empire rings
maiyet cuff
Now let’s move on to some fine jewlery. First up are these two long diamond bar rings. The diamonds were sourced in Jaipur, where they were made in a manner which honors the Indian techniques of jewlery making.

maiyet diamond bar rings
There were also various single-finger rings. If one is good, then three are better, right?!

maiyet diamond rings
Next, I explored the Dagger collection. I tried on this black horn and diamond cuff while admiring the coordinating pendant necklaces.

maiyet black horn bracelet
maiyet black horn necklaces
One of my absolute favorite pieces I tried on, also in the Dagger line, is this moonstone and diamond ring. It’s as cool from the top view as it is from the side.

maiyet moonstone dagger ring
maiyet moonstone ring
Their Moon & Stars group had a very dreamy necklace and heavenly bracelet (Sorry..couldn’t resist).

maiyet moon and stars necklace
maiyet moon and stars bracelet
And finally…the pièce de résistance…their gold and diamond cage bracelet. The designer actually went to Jaipur and brought a stone-setter from NYC to train in how to set the diamonds to her specifications. I would say her efforts certainly paid off, wouldn’t you?

maiyet gold and diamond cage bracelet
If you’re in NYC, you can visit their store on Crosby Street. For the rest of us, they do have an online shop, as well as representation at the following stockists.