One of the things I love about being a wardrobe stylist is that it has me traveling all over the country to work with clients. I recently had the opportunity to work in Austin, Texas, for the first time. Not only was it inspiring to visit somewhere new, but I was also psyched I’d finally be able to visit Bell and Bird, an antique jewelry store (specializing in 18th and 19th century pieces) that I’d been following on Instagram for quite some time. After enjoying a delicious gelato at Teo, right around the corner from them, I eagerly entered the store. Rhianna, the owner, could not have been kinder. As soon as we got talking about my jewelry blog, she started pulling out trays and trays of delectable jewels from their vault. Her wealth of expertise was mind blowing.
Not knowing what to try on first, I decided to don this incredible Victorian snake bracelet from the Netherlands. It dates to the 1860’s and is made from 18K gold and old mine cut diamonds.
One of the highlights from my recent trip to Seattle was seeing Monica Stephenson, a dear friend and the founder of ANZA Gems, a truly unique jewelry company. I first met Monica when I was a newbie jewelry blogger. She was a fellow (though very experienced) jewelry blogger, among many other roles in the jewelry industry. Her passion for gems and her philanthropic heart melded in a perfect way when she founded ANZA Gems. Read the interview with Monica below to find out more about this exciting company.
I know you have an extensive background in the jewelry industry the past 20 years. What drew you to East Africa and developing your own jewelry business?
It started with reading a tweet about a documentary film about tracing the journey of a gem beginning in the mines of East Africa, called Sharing the Rough. I was completely intrigued and couldn’t stop thinking about going to Africa for the filming. I have been involved in the jewelry business for many years, but had never visited a mine–this was an opportunity to truly see where these sparkly gems come from. I went on that film trip (and ended up in the film, somehow!), and there was something so captivating about being there and meeting the people involved there.
For months after the trip in 2014, I literally couldn’t stop thinking about how hard people were working, and how little they directly participate in the global gem business. I created ANZA Gems to support artisans, from the miners who dig for gems, to the cutters and designers responsible for the finished jewelry. All of my experience working in various capacities in the industry, plus my relationships from writing about jewelry designers as a blogger, combined to create this circle of development.
I love how you have a very philanthropic aspect to your business. Would you please tell us a bit about that?
From the beginning, I wanted this endeavor to benefit the communities that supply the gems. I was not interested in being a typical gem dealer. I had heard about “triple bottom line” businesses and wanted ANZA Gems to do a greater good. First, I pay fair prices for the rough gems that I purchase directly from licensed miners and dealers in Tanzania and Kenya. Visiting the mines and meeting the people is my favorite part of the business, and ensures I see what people need in the mining communities. When I pay for gems there, the money goes directly to those families and communities. The rough gems that I bring back are faceted by US cutters, which is kind of a rarity. The faceted gems are set into capsule collections by incredible studio jewelers like Jennifer Dawes, Rebecca Overmann, Wendy Brandes, Alexis Kletjian, Erika Winters, Lika Behar, Vicente Agor, and we’re adding more all the time! The final part of the journey is that we contribute 10% back to schools in Tanzania and Kenya at the primary and trade level. We are reinvesting in the people where the gems originate…
When you go to Africa in search of gems, do you go looking for a certain type? Or do you just play it by ear when you get there?
On my first gem buying trip after the documentary and my epiphany, I naively made a list of gems beforehand of gems I wanted to buy. Ha! East Africa is nothing if not humbling! I quickly had to recalibrate and adjust on the fly, purchasing the gem quality rough I could find, with sweaty palms! It can be such a risk to buy rough–you never know what it’s going to actually yield! The next trip, I found very different gems available. Bottom line, I never truly know what I’m going to see or purchase. It’s a great lesson that this is artisanal mining and you never know what is going to come out of the ground there.
When you have a stone all cut and ready to be made into jewelry, how does that process work? Do you and the designer collaborate?
I have to say that I love ALL of the jewelry that has been created so far for ANZA Gems. I give the cutters autonomy to coax the ultimate beauty from each rough gem, even though that means that every gem is truly one-of-a-kind. I give similar freedom to the jewelry designers, though I may give some general guidance on whether it should be a ring, pendant or earrings, or if we need something in rose gold or platinum, or maybe general price range. I might tweak a detail here or there. But I think the beauty of this is how organic the process is and the truly gorgeous finished pieces.
When I was at your studio, I noticed you had a lovely collection featuring rough stones. Please tell us about this group.
I am so excited about the new rough collection, ANZA PURE! Wendy Brandes of Wendy Brandes Jewelry had often played with examples of rough when we have our design meetings over lunch at our favorite cafe in NYC. We both agreed that the rough gems are beautiful straight out of the ground, and she figured out a way to set them simply in 18k gold. The result is a collection of green garnets and pink spinels set into clean, modern designs that show off the pure gems. It’s relatively affordable (starting at $345 for a single stud earring), one-of-a-kind jewelry made in NYC! I love that it’s accessible, and each purchase supports a gem cutting school in Arusha, TZ.
So, my readers, how excited are you about this company?! So amazing, right? I cannot wait to see the latest and greatest pieces that come to fruition. If you’re looking to keep up too, then I highly recommend you follow the ANZA Gems Instagram account.
Monica, thank you for your time, your fierce passion and your entrepreneurship. You are definitely helping make the world a better, and more sparkly, place!
My fascination with Brandon Holschuh began when I spied an incredibly unique bead he made on Instagram. I vividly remember I was sitting in my hotel room in Edinburgh, Scotland, and my jaw about hit the floor. I was thrilled when I found out he was showing in San Francisco in August when I returned to California, and I got to meet him in person and check out a similar bead. I love everything about it, from the clearly hand-fabricated texture to the diamonds and variation in metal colors.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Brandon where you’ll find out more about this talented Ohio-based designer.
You told me that you’ve had a life long fascination with beads. Is this what got you going in jewelry design?
Yes, I began collecting ancient and ethnic beads as a teenager. Everything started as a collection. I began collecting beads, artifacts, coins, bones, parts, gemstones, rocks and any small object that had a story. I love learning about the history of the object, the provenance and I equally love the retelling the [object] story as well.
I learned to work with metal as a vehicle to help present the object or artifact. So making a metal armature or a mount to hold the objects began the evolution to jewelry. Copper turned to silver… silver turned to gold… and little by little diamonds creeped in. Our current work still pays homage to beads, but they are diamond beads. They are still strung on wire, but it’s now platinum. The forms are still present but they are also raised in platinum, gold and palladium. We have stayed consistent with the aesthetic throughout the evolution, but the materials are precious, the designs more complex and the whole feel is more refined.
Your pieces have such a raw, organic, yet luxe aesthetic. What’s your inspiration for your designs?
It seems to silly to even say this, but it’s the absolute truth — we honestly let the metal tell us what it wants to be. We process the material in such a way that we have a unique and intimate understanding of its properties, its working capacity and its ability to change shape. This working relationship is how we push the metal to its limits. We get asked a lot about our process and it’s sometimes shocking to hear that our forms, shapes and designs are entirely hand-fabricated. We do not carve wax or cast anything. Each piece incorporates so many processes and various techniques it’s entirely a product of process. We do a lot of fusing, reticulation, forming, raising and sinking. We experiment a lot and we welcome unexpected results. We integrate those into the designs. We make a lot of parts. With those parts we make small objects. With those objects, we decide if it’s going to be a brooch or a ring or a necklace. Once in a while we stumble upon two parts that are similar. Those usually become earrings or cufflinks. The whole design process is organic, as is the work.
What do you find are the most challenging and rewarding things about being a jewelry designer?
I’m an artist. My medium happens to be jewelry. I make small wearable sculptures. Even though I’m a jeweler, I’m still an artist who has a voice. I use jewelry to communicate an idea. Just like a painter makes you feel a certain way when you view their painting, I use jewelry to evoke a certain emotion. More importantly our work still has a conceptual component. Actually, it has three main components that must be met to consider a piece complete. Here they are, in order:
A finished piece must be immediately beautiful. It must be accepted by the general public as an object of beauty. It must exude luxury, refinement and sheer beauty in design and material. This is for the client, the customer and the collector.
Next, it must be well made. It must gain accolades and admiration from other makers, jewelers and craftspeople who appreciate the vast and dynamic processes that go into each piece. We must trigger the question of how it’s made, what processes were used and what the complexity of the design is. This is for those who make and our counterparts. It’s also for the critics, jurors, judges and masters of the craft.
The final component is conceptual. We make work that communicates an idea. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s expertly crafted. But it also has meaning. We excel here. We challenge the design to communicate a concept or to tell a story without words. Sometimes the viewer creates their own connection to the work. This interpretation is personal. Mostly it’s an emotion. Sometimes it’s literal. We have made pieces that are purely conceptual. This is for the sentimental, the heirloom seekers. This is also for academia and those who want a deeper connection with the objects in their lives. We love to tell the stories. Remember, it’s always about the story.
If you weren’t a jeweler, what would you be doing?
Nothing. I can’t imagine a life where jewelry isn’t in my thoughts and actions in every minute of every day. My time is spent equally between my loving and supportive family and my studio. I have two amazing daughters and between my duties as a husband and father, there isn’t any time for much else.
OK, and now I have something VERY special to share with you. This is the debut of Brandon’s off-the-charts gorgeous emerald and diamond ring.
Did your eyes just go wide with delight? I bet! Here are a few more images of this beauty, which features an 8+ carat emerald, over a carat in diamonds, and all hand fabricated in 18K gold. The emerald just glows from within. I’ve never seen anything like it, have you??
Brandon — you have a true gift.
If you’d like to contact Brandon about his work, you can reach him at [email protected] or 216-577-6365. There are also links to his website and Instagram at the beginning of this article. I have a feeling there are more than a few future Brandon Holschuh collectors reading this article…
There was a lot of buzz on the show floor about Adam Foster this year. It was the first time this St. Louis jewelry designer was showing at the Couture Show, and as soon as I saw the jewelry in his cases, I knew what the buzz was all about! As a graduate in metalsmithing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Adam started his business from scratch about 15 years ago. He began by making bespoke pieces for private clients. This bespoke collection is one of this three aesthetics in his line. (We’ll get to the other two in a bit.)
I was honestly blown away by the craftsmanship, the attention to detail, and the use of stones in his work. The first ring I want to show you is this one, featuring reverse carved mother of pearl. Have you ever seen anything like it? It’s simply mesmerizing.
The comment in my notebook about this 32 carat sugarloaf moonstone ring is, “Holy shit!” I think that about sums it up.
I felt like royalty when I put on this one…
Surely the person who dons this panther brooch crafted from hand carved obsidian and bedecked with white and black diamonds will be making a personal style statement!
Take note of the feather headdress the panther is wearing. Feathers are in fact the inspiration for “Plume,” another of Adam’s three aesthetics. Spending time in the country on weekends and going pheasant hunting in the winter inspired Adam to create very unique pieces with this motif. He was wearing a fab feather brooch when I met him at the show.
The feather detail on this ring, all hand crafted, takes the piece to a whole new level.
The third aesthetic in Adam’s line is “Constellation,” and it’s in this group that I found something I’d love to have in my personal jewelry collection. Inspired by the ceilings in Italy, Adam translates the celestial heavens into wearable art. I’m pretty obsessed with these Constellation bracelets.
This behind the scenes look at the making of a piece in this collection really gives you an appreciation of the meticulous work that goes into each piece. I think it’s awesome that everything from design to manufacturing all takes place at the same address.
This Constellation band would certainly add some pizazz to one’s jewelry collection. Would you wear it on its own or perhaps stack another band or two with it?
I’m so excited to have met Adam and gotten a first-hand look at his unique line. Take note, readers, as this is a name that you’re going to be hearing more of — I just know it!
I spent my birthday this past February down in southern California with my bestie — my mom. We pile all our things in her light green mini van and take a road trip about once a year, hitting all our favorite towns and shops up and down the state. This year, I added a very special jewlery store to my birthday agenda, and boy am I glad I did!
I have been following August on Instagram for quite some time, drooling over their well-curated collection of designers. Their cohesiveness in style, yet breadth of designers has quite literally left me breathless on more than one occasion. I was thrilled when Bill Hermsen, the owner of August, let me know about a new collection they picked up, Rallou Mindfulness. August is, in fact, the first place in the United States to carry the Greek-based line from designer Rallou Katsari. Needless to say, I knew if this line was going into August, there was no doubt that I’d love it as well.
I asked Bill what drew him to this line and he replied, “Rallou’s work is deceptively simple and executed in luxurious materials. There’s something very compelling about that combination.” I couldn’t agree more. As I scrolled through Rallou’s Instagram feed, a feeling of calm came over me, and it really make me think about how powerful her clean designs are.
Each of the designs has a carefully selected name and meaning. Take, for example, the drop rings, in which the drop is a “physical representation of present moment.” Throughout Rallou’s “Seemingly Solid” collection, “The drop is used as a physical representation of the present moment and works as a mindful reminder to live, to flow, to simply be here and now.”
Rallou’s whole concept is that of mindfulness — being present in the here and now. This ethos is very evident on the quotes on her Instagram page.
As I looked through this line, I was particularly drawn to some of the earring designs. Here is the minimal and elegant “Now” stud, which creatively sits on the ear unlike any I’ve seen before. Its meaning is, “right Now life unfolds, notice.”
There are also various permutations of the earring, including this one which I love, the “Connection,” which reminds us of our connection to nature.
The “Will” earring (which also doubles as a brooch) encourages “the Will to bring peace inside and outside yourself.”
There’s even an earring which doesn’t require any piercings — the “Joy.”
This article wouldn’t be complete without also showing you the “Moment” ring, with its fluidity coming to life in gold and diamonds. It reminds us to “bring attention to this moment.”
Isn’t it just dreamy on the hand?!
As Bill told me, “Rallou is for the woman that appreciates subtlety and restraint, but it can also be layered beautifully with other collections.” Personally, I’m just dying to visit August again to try on this line in person and see how it effortlessly combines with other lines they carry. In the meantime, I’ll continue to gaze longingly at August’s Instagram feed and enjoy exploring their online store. With Bill’s background in textiles, jewelry, and interior design, I’m always assured a beautiful treat for the senses.
Do you believe in fate? I most definitely do. As I was flying to Las Vegas to attend the Couture jewelry show, I made a short list of those designers I really wanted to meet while I was there. After ogling Pat Flynn‘s nail bracelets online for quite some time now, and seeing his name on the list of first time attendees, I knew he was definitely on my list. As luck (or fate) would have it, he happened to walk in the hotel room one evening where I was hanging out with a few friends. Really? Really. Lucky me, as I got to chat with him a bit before visiting his booth at the show.
When I met with Pat at his booth, I couldn’t help but pile on a few of his nail bracelets— an iconic mainstay of his line. They are surprisingly light on the wrist, and they stack effortlessly. Pat explained that he himself hand forges each and every one of the iron nails. The juxtaposition of the hand-forged steel and the sparkle of diamonds and gold is just fantastic.
Pat grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and he began making jewelry in high school. He bought an old Craft jewelry toolkit and went to work. (He said he still has some of the original tools from this kit!) He went to art school, and then began working in factories in NYC as a young father, commuting hours a day, and then coming home to work in his own studio at night. I couldn’t write fast enough to capture all the work experience he’s had, including making the model for the first twist bracelet at David Yurman! How cool is that?!
Pat is clearly passionate about his work, and he enjoys teaching as well. I find it fascinating that he combines old-school forging with fire and hammer with the art of goldsmithing and stone-setting. He is a one-stop shop! This photo is from his website, and it really gives a feel for his process.
I couldn’t help but admire this necklace, with a detachable freshwater Chinese pearl dangling from the center.
Since feathers are one of my talismans, I was certainly drawn to this dramatic feather brooch.
And what about these earrings? I would describe them as contemporary, elegant, and yet a little bad ass all at the same time!
Pat has made an indelible mark on the world of jewelry. You can find his work in permanent collections at The Met in NYC and the Chicago Arts Institute, just to name a couple. It was a real honor to meet you, Pat. Thank you so much for your time and all your travel tips about your beloved Scotland. I can’t wait to see it myself!!
The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920’s just opened at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City, and it will run until August 20th. What comes to your mind when you think of this time in history? For me, I think about the new freedom for women, from the right to vote to rising hemlines. I picture speakeasies where people were dancing the Charleston and drinking cocktails, despite prohibition. If you’d like to explore this era, you’ll surely enjoy this new multi-media exhibit which features a wide array, from fashion to architecture, to music and film, and more.
Neil Lane, jeweler to the stars, is showing many pieces from his personal collection from the 20’s and 30’s. While you may know Neil as a jewelry designer, he is in fact a major collector as well. While growing up in Brooklyn, he began earning money from selling glass and other decorative objects. By the time he finished college, he had enough money to book a ticket to Paris. This is where he really had the opportunity to train his eye and learned to be a well-curated collector.
I’d like to share some of the pieces showing at this exhibit. You may recognize this first necklace, as it was worn by Jennifer Lawerence at the 2014 Oscar’s. (cool how she draped it down her back) This sautoir is composed of diamonds, platinum and carved rock crystal. It’s signed Chalet et cie, Paris, France. It’s from the royal family Montino Bourbon Del Monte Di San Faustian.
I love this stack of platinum, diamond, ruby and sapphire bracelets from Boucheron. So chic!
The whimsy in these Cartier platinum and diamond airplane brooches makes me smile.
Never in my life have I seen a bracelet quite like this; a whole orchestra is shown in platinum, diamonds, sapphires and carved onyx. I can certainly understand why Neil added this to his collection!
This French platinum, yellow and white diamond, and cabochon emerald brooch is quintessentially of the time. It’s maker’s hallmark is Rubel Frères.
Personally, I’d love to wear this French platinum and diamond sphere necklace, signed Mauboussin, circa 1929. It was worn by Madonna at the 2003 MTV VMA’s.
Finally, how about this platinum and diamond bracelet, once owned by Mae West?!
This is just the tip of the iceberg, my friends. Living on the west coast, I’m sad to be missing this exhibit. But if you find yourself in NYC, add this to your itinerary and enjoy! Please let me know what you think of the show.
This past Saturday I was supposed to shop with a client, but he unexpectedly had to reschedule. Knowing this would allow me the opportunity to visit the Hillsborough Antique Show in San Mateo, CA, more than made up for this schedule change. I decided to go through the show with my “virtual bottomless wallet” and pick out what I would buy if the sky was the limit. This made the excursion so much fun!
Just a few booths in on the first row I walked down, I found a couple swoon-worthy pieces. First up is this Victorian bracelet from France with angel skin coral and natural pearls. I learned the ornate work in the 18K gold is called “tracery work.” (I am constantly learning new things whenever I speak with such knowledgeable dealers like Lisa!) This bracelet is from A Pocket of Rocks.
At the connecting booth I met Alison from Duvenay. She was showing an exquisite pair of Victorian cut steel earrings from the late 1800’s. I knew a bit about cut steel jewelry, but when I came home, first thing on the agenda was to research it a bit more. This article from Lang’s AJU has a fantastic description of this genre of jewlery. I think these earrings are the perfect way to get a special occasion look with glowing sparkle.
Another booth that drew me in by some sort of jewelry magnetic force was that of Laurel Stearns’ PassItOnLTD. Within just a few moments of chatting we discovered we have a mutual very dear friend, and we’ll both be at her wedding this summer. Is that a small world, or what?! But back to the jewelry…I couldn’t decide between these two rings, and since I didn’t have a limit for this exercise, I chose both! The one on the left is a Victorian navette from around 1890, set in silver wth a 14K shank. The ring on the right features a converted Georgian pin from the late 1700’s-early 1800’s. Which would you choose?
I had to stop at Lenore Dailey’s booth, which always exceeds expectations. The pair of earrings that was calling to me this time around was these late Georgian hand earrings. Do you see the little ruby ring each hand is wearing? So precious and romantic.
I’ve been following TheOneILoveNYC on Instagram for quite some time, but this is the first time I got to meet Mia in person. Boy were her cases brimming with sparkle — tons from the Georgian era! But typical me, who seems so drawn to Victorian jewelry, selected a Portuguese pendant on a long yellow gold chain. I THOUGHT the pendant was Georgian, due to how the diamonds were set, but I was wrong. (So much to learn!) Isn’t it pretty?
Her next-door neighbor was Jewels by Grace, a fantastic vendor whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet at a couple shows in the past year. At her booth, I tried on this diamond and turquoise “tiara” bracelet, which was a very popular motif during Victorian times. How can you not admire the 2.65 ctw of rose cut and old European cut diamonds?
But then…I spied “The Olsen Twins” — a truly remarkable pair of elongated cushion cut diamond earrings totaling 9.46 carats!! I had seen photos of them on Instagram before (such as this one below) and in Grace’s ears, but this time I got to try them on myself. Ack! I truly felt like royalty wearing them. Can you see my virtual crown?!
Near the end of the show, I stopped at Mary Ann-tiques, as I spied a particularly fetching pair of Art Deco earrings. Granted, this is not typically an era I’m drawn to, but this pair of carved rock crystal and onyx earrings had it going on with the mis-matched earring trend that’s so en vogue right now. To give you a sense of their size, I took the photo with my full-sized pen next to them. Pretty incredible, right?
Though I didn’t leave the show with all these stunning pieces, I still got a thrill seeing them and trying them on. Thanks to all the kind dealers who spent time chatting with me, and furthering my education on antique jewelry. If you’d like to learn a little more, you may enjoy articles I’ve written about Georgian and Victorian jewelry. And if you’re interested in attending this show, which is open to the public, it’ll be back in San Mateo July 21-23 and November 3-5.
With the Thanksgiving holiday almost upon us, I know that many of you are in that whirlwind of “busy” — preparing the food, your home, or perhaps traveling. Knowing that reading a long, wordy blog post would probably not fit into your schedule his week, I thought instead I’d give you some eye candy to scroll through.
I recently came across Artemest, an absolutely incredible website co-founded by the well-known jewelry designer Ippolita Rostagno. Ippolita and her team have scoured Italy from north to south, east to west, to bring us the most amazing collection of home decor, jewelry and fine art, all handcrafted in Italy by immensely talented artisans. I will admit that I’ve gone through every single product they offer more than once. (And there’s over 1,600 pieces featured on the site!)
In the jewelry category they have all price points, including both fashion and fine jewlery. The styles also cover a wide array of personal styles. I truly believe there’s something for everyone among their offerings. Without further ado, here’s a selection of pieces that caught my eye.
Do any of these pieces have your heart singing? If you need a break from the holiday stress, I highly encourage you to head over to the Artemest site and enjoy the view. And if you’re so inclined, you may get a head start on your holiday shopping.
I really like how Dana Bronfman describes her line on her website, “… (it) is for the woman who delights in adorning herself in the precious ore of the earth but whose feet are planted firmly in the city.” This creates a great visual, doesn’t it? I had the pleasure of meeting Dana and trying on her jewelry at the JCK show in Las Vegas.
Her description is right on target, as I saw the architecture in the first necklace I picked up, which is inspired by the Brooklyn Bridge.
Dana is over 1.5 years into her business. Though she lives in New York (she moved there for further jewelry studies after attending The Revere Academy), she and I bonded over both being Bay Area natives. Every piece in her collection is made by hand in New York City. She’s passionate about being ethical in her work, using reclaimed metals and ethically-sourced stones. In addition, she donates part of her sales to non-profit organizations which align with her values. Gotta love all that!
As I explored the goodies in her case, I noticed how many of her pieces had an element of movement to them. Take, for example her flip rings.
They are fun to flip around while wearing them.
Another key element in her designs is her use of negative space. Her Oculus collection, which basically translates to any round shape that lets light shine through, is pretty darn cool. Here’s a couple of her “Holly” pendants, which can be worn horizontally or vertically.
These two rings, in gold and silver, feature double rows of diamonds. Nice, right?
Her newest collection is inspired by clock gears melting…very Dali-esque; she always feels as if she’s running out of time. Here’s a necklace and a brooch in this group.
Dana’s “Climbing Persistence” earrings can be worn on their own, or with a pendulum extender. Which way would you choose to wear them?
The day I visited Dana at the show, she was wearing her “Flying Lilly” necklace — beautiful combination of shapes and metal colors, highlighted with diamonds.
Dana’s “Still Lilly” rings felt very easy on the hand, and gave a real punch in appearance.