I find it almost impossible to believe that I’ll be turning 50 next month! And if you’ve been following me for a while, then you know I have a strong tradition of self-gifting. Not only do I find it very empowering to buy myself jewelry, it’s also a very sentimental practice where I honor various moments in life. With this momentous occasion on the horizon, I’ve started putting some real thought into what I might love to own. I want to share some of the items that are currently at the top of my jewelry lust list. In no particular order, here goes:
I originally saw these last year at the Couture show in Las Vegas. They have haunted me ever since. Not only are they rock crystal (which you know I’m obsessed with), but the shape and the combination with gold and diamonds makes them a super luxe look for everyday.
This is another piece I’ve had on my mind for a very long time. To me, it has sort of a 70’s vibe — I can picture wearing it with a caftan poolside in Palm Springs. The little channels of white enamel are oh, so cool. And the diamond settings sing to my celestial heart. Don’t you think it’d be gorge in rose gold?
I saw these on Alice’s Instagram not too long ago, but they really made an impression! Again, the white enamel detail (I’m sensing a mini theme here) is awesome, along with the combination of metallic tones with the white topaz. I’d wear the heck out of these.
I’ve been coveting one of Daniela’s insect pieces for at least a couple years now. Though I’ve only seen two of her big rings in person, they make me swoon. In a dream world, I’d probably like one with green stones…
Bibi is one of my style icons. Not only do I adore her personal style, but her jewelry is seriously out of this world. These galaxy earrings look SO amazing; I may need to take a trip to Amsterdam to try them on!
I have a “thing” for Sara’s beachy line, and I own a couple of her pendants already — a shell and a fish. Don’t you think this hand carved rock crystal coconut with a polki diamond would complete the trio? And I have the wire wave choker to add it to. The other two pendants I have hang vertically, so I like that this would add a horizontal aspect to the grouping. True, a coconut isn’t exactly what one typically thinks of in fine jewelry, but I love its uniqueness. And as you know, I’m usually not one to have “the norm” in either clothes or jewelry!
Hopefully you read my last blog article, which was all about Brent. And I must say there’s something about her jewelry that really draws you in. Since my wardrobe is mostly black, wouldn’t this ring be a great way to add some color to my ensembles?!
As I write this list, I’m definitely picking up on a few common themes: celestial, enamel details, rock crystal, and color. Funny that these elements didn’t necessarily pop out when I was picking the pieces, yet now they are so obvious.
I’ve still got time to ponder, and I’ll be seeing LOTS of jewelry when I embark on a 10 day road trip to southern California next month. The best scenario is that I win the lottery between now and then and I buy it all! A girl can dream, right?!
Speaking of dreams, I’ve got a big one — a huge new project that I’m diving into this year. As a result, I’m going to be taking a hiatus on writing articles for this site. BUT…don’t panic. You can always get your jewelry fix on my Instagram page, which is definitely full of sparkle. If you’re not yet following me, then click here to keep up on the latest scoop. In fact, perhaps I’ll even reveal what I land on for my 50th gift. Hope to see you there! xo
I just adore visiting For Future Reference’s booth at the Couture show, as they represent some of the most amazing jewelry designers — creative, colorful, and lines that are often outside the proverbial box; no run of the mill designs seen here! Case in point was seeing Brent Neale’s line for the first time. The designer, Brent Winston, is a true ray of sunshine and she perfectly translates this joy and effervescence to her jewelry line.
Case in point — have you ever though about wearing a gemmy magic mushroom around your neck? Well I hadn’t either until I saw them in person and then fell in love with this bright green one she posted on Instagram recently.
Please enjoy this Q&A with Brent:
I know you worked in the jewelry world for many years before starting your own line in 2017. What prompted you to take the leap?
I left Kara Ross in 2015 because of a high risk pregnancy with twins, including a long stint on bed rest. It was a tough year for me. The girls were very early and they spent two months in the NiCU where I basically lived as well. A year after they were born my husband and friends urged me to start drawing and working again. I’m so glad they did, because I really needed to feel like myself again. I started sketching everything and it came pouring out of me. Jewelry is something I truly love and it’s part of my personal identity, so it was natural. That first collection was called “After the Rain”: a reminder that something good and beautiful always follows something bad.
Your line is so whimsical and colorful — it always makes me smile when I see your work. What’s your inspiration for your unique aesthetic?
Life is hard, and everyone has their stuff, you know? But jewelry should be fun and happy and that’s a goal of mine for the line. It should make you feel good! (btw — I totally agree, Brent!)
Tell me a little more about your cool door necklaces.
The doors came about through my travels — each door represents a different place. The Malachite door is Rome, the Lapis is Paris, Turquoise with the honeysuckle and hummingbird took inspiration from the Bahamas, and so forth. But more than just visually, the collection was called “Passageways” and it was about creating the path and choosing the doors you want in life.
What sort of woman do you envision wearing your jewelry?
I think the women that buy my jewelry want something a bit different and a bit out of the box. I particularly love that the women range in age and they are wearing it for all occasions, as everyday pieces and for black tie!
What do you find is the most rewarding thing about being a jewelry designer?
When I get an note or an email or a DM from a client saying how much they love a piece. If someone derives some joy out of something I’ve made, then I’m definitely doing something right.
Anything you can share about what you have in store for your line in 2019?
Loads of color, texture and fun ✨✨✨
I am SO not surprised to hear this, Brent. I’d expect nothing less, and I cannot wait to see what you have in store for us. If you’d like to see more of Brent’s work, click here for a list of retailers and definitely follow her on Instagram for an insider’s look at what she’s up to. It’s sure to bring a smile to your day.
I vividly recall when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, and a carved rock crystal and gold bracelet stopped me in my tracks. Was it an antiquity from some museum collection? Was it a newly created piece? I honestly couldn’t tell, so I had to investigate…and that led me right to Loren Nicole Jewelry. Loren Teetelli, the designer behind the collection, was going to be making an appearance at the Couture show in Las Vegas. Meeting her and seeing her work was at the top of my list!
Not only is her jewelry simply stunning with it’s ancient feel, but Loren is a veritable font of information. With her extensive background in art history and anthropology, combined with her talent as a goldsmith, she has created a singular line rife with history. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the following interview with Nicole.
After seeing your work, I was SO not surprised to learn you have a background in archaeology. Can you please share how this prepared you for your career as a jewelry designer?
I have degrees in art history and anthropology, with a focus in archaeology, one of the 4 branches of anthropology. I have had a lot of practical experience as an archaeologist, having worked as a field archaeologist in Peru, Mexico and Vermont, and as a lab technician in the North American Archaeology Lab in the Anthropology Department of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (it’s a mouthful). I later worked as a conservator in the Objects Conservation Lab at the American Museum of Natural History and Conservation Lab in Africa Oceana and the Americas department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Art history has provided me the advantage of an extensive depth of knowledge of civilizations throughout history focused on many mediums, while archaeology trained me to think about the material culture, both art and domestic objects, from a practical viewpoint. Studying both disciplines has allowed me to recognize pattern, to the point where I can look at a selection of mixed objects and at the very least divide them up geographically. Aside from my academic interests, I have always been drawn to craft. I have been painting and illustrating for as long as I can recall and have studied pottery, weaving, glass blowing, printmaking and so on. My natural inclination towards making tied into my archaeological interest because it’s all about the objects we made and left behind. Understanding how they were constructed, the technology used to make them, the sources for their materials (trade), and eventually how they were then used.
Now, working as a goldsmith, my interests in understanding the science of an object is the foundation of my design process. Studying and working in the original technologies used to make the pieces I am representing, allows the collection to “feel” ancient. When beginning a new collection, I am fortunate to have a large mental library of different civilizations to pull on. I typically begin with one or a few key visual elements (like the “heart” and oval shapes of the Silla collection), and recognize what technology was used to build those pieces. If the goal is to replicate the feeling of ancient jewelry, it is not possible to do so by only copying the patterns or symbols, it needs to be constructed using the same methods. Since I am currently working on an Egyptian collection, I will give this example; a lot of Egyptian revival jewelry is enamel usually depicting King Tut’s Scarab, the Eye of Horus, etc. While many of these pieces are fun and beautiful in their own right, we understand the reference, but they don’t have the feeling of something that emerged from an ancient Egyptian tomb. They haven’t gotten to the core of ancient Egyptian Jewelry. If instead of enamel, those colors were inlaid stone (cloisonné), then they would be doing something interesting, something more true to the history of the design and using a technique contemporary to the original source.
Is there a certain period in history that most influences your work?
My love for art history lies with anything pre-dating the Northern Baroque period, with a particular interest in civilizations that we refer to as “ancient”, for example, Greek, Egyptian, Scythian (Eurasian Nomadic Peoples), Moche, Chimu, etc. I also love a few outliers, such as Agnes Martin, Axel Vervoordt (not necessarily an artist) and Mark Rothko. I would say that my designs are a combination of these two interests, as is my favorite ancient period. Cycladic art, while having been made as far back as 5000 years ago, is so contemporary in its design. Civilizations of archaeology are in my heart. There is so much mystery still surrounding them and there is always a scavenger hunt when discovering a new piece. These civilizations worked in 22k yellow gold, my preferred medium, and the technologies I have studied from them, such as granulation and chasing and repousse, are my favorite to work in. I love jewelry where you can see the hand of its creator — it is more warm for me than something that has been machined using electric steel tools. That being said, there is a power in minimalism and being able to convey an emotion with as few elements as possible. Agnes Martin has been my greatest teacher of this. Applying what I have learned from studying her work to my jewelry design by taking the time to edit out what is unnecessary, while still retaining the core feeling of the civilization I am representing, has been the greatest challenge and most rewarding. While I am replicating the past, I am not creating replicas.
I am a huge fan of the pieces I saw from your new Silla Collection. Can you please tell me a bit about this collection?
I first discovered the Silla while working at the MET. They hosted a temporary exhibit of their work primarily showing pottery and jewelry. I have always been fascinated by trade in the ancient world, because in the structure that we are taught, we usually don’t think of these ancient civilizations trading, learning and adopting practices from each other. What originally struck me was the quality and large scale of their granulation, a technique that originated with the Etruscans in present day Sicily and made its way across the Silk Road with the Greeks stationed in Bactria and then spreading to India and further east, where it is still practiced. When approaching this lesser known civilization to develop a collection, I resisted the instinct to include granulation because that is something that was learned, I needed to identify what was unique to them and their history.
There were two elements that stood out; the application of gold discs and key shapes, such as the oval, “heart” and trapezoid. There were two key jewelry styles that needed to be represented to honor their history as nomadic peoples, the belt and the crown. Several belts in a style similar to our Nomad Belt were discovered in burials, adorned with charms representing both domestic and spiritual purposes. For example, the cut-out piece is a scissor and the fish may have been an amulet to avert evil. The belt is also a nod to this civilization’s history as nomadic peoples, where wealth needed to be portable and rank needed to be easily identifiable. Since there has has been so much interest in the fish, it is actually a personal joke, my version of uniting the ends of the Silk Road. I took the Silla design for a fish and married it with the idea of Rock Crystal fish that the Ancient Greeks occasionally made and then suspended them all from a modified Ancient Greek woven chain (present-day). I still can’t believe this is the most popular piece from June, it was the only design I was super unsure of. Both this necklace and the belt are available at Stanley Korshak.
I’m completely obsessed with all the charms you make. How do you envision clients styling them?
It is a joyful part of our collection that encourages interaction. People love color! Few people don’t love rummaging through a pile of candy-like gems and arranging their favorites to carry with them everyday. We can change them with our mood, layer them up, put them on different chains. They are so versatile. There is something for everyone. It is all about wearing layers of color stories that are meaningful to the wearer. I personally like to wear 5 on long leather cord and change the color story with the seasons.
They were designed to be a fun way to incorporate color and offer a more accessible entry point into my collection. What I had hoped and what my clients are doing is starting with one or two pieces and slowly adding more to their set, typically wearing them all together. They fit on all of our necklaces, most of our bracelets and new leather cords that will be released soon. All of our charms are either cabochons or carved stones that have been ethically sourced and are set in our signature 22k yellow gold brushed finish (We use recycled and Fairmined gold), so they inherently have that ancient look to it, but I choose more playful colors to make it modern. They have also been a really fun education point between me and my clients. It is opportunity to share a deeper story about the history of a gem, its origin, what gives it is color, who cut it and the amazing history of Idar Oberstein represented in our carved gems.
What sort of woman do you see wearing your jewelry?
Be it young or more mature, the woman that purchases my jewelry is a collector. She loves art and history. She is not interested in trends. She is confident in her own style and has her own criteria for recognizing quality of craftsmanship.
What do you find is the most rewarding aspect(s) of being a jewelry designer?
I have been given the opportunity to share my love of ancient history with people that may not necessarily have been exposed to it or haven’t previously shown an interest in it. I absolutely love when I have opportunity to speak with men, whether they are shopping for themselves or their significant other, because I have found that they are typically interested in the science/more geeky specifics of my jewelry, which gets them excited and offers a connection to jewelry that they don’t always have available. The women tend to be more perceptive to the aesthetics and art history of the piece. If they connect with that aesthetic, they get it immediately. What is universal, is when people discover my chains and once they learn that many of them have been made for over 3000 years and then can find them on display at world renowned museums, they are immediately hooked. Then they feel the weight of a solid gold chain, usually for the first time, and they see how it moves and suddenly they discover a new relationship towards jewelry. It is so much fun to watch that moment in a person’s face transform from a slight interest into complete wonder. I also really love when my jewelry is mistaken for an antique. I feel like I have done my job as a designer and a goldsmith when that occurs.
Can you share one of your most recent pieces?
I am currently working on our new collection, Nebu, which will launch at Couture next summer. Nebu is the the ancient Egyptian word for gold. They are the only civilization I am aware of that believed gold had divine power. They had over 30 types of gold, which is amazing considering how rudimentary their tools were. I am finally going to be showing off my skills as a goldsmith with this collection. There will be a lot of granulation and chasing and repousse.
Here is a photo of a chaising and repousse crocodile cuff bracelet that is currently on my bench.
And here’s an oversized hoop that was completed last week. The hoop has a small granulation halo around the Mandarin Garnet with Cats Eye Pink Tourmaline and Morganite (one from Brazil and the other from Mozambique) decorating the bottom edge. The design originated from an Egyptian wall painting. I have yet to discover a jewelry example of this design; however, that doesn’t mean that it was not used. With some of the earliest styles, there aren’t always actual objects discovered representing what was depicted. I have another one-of-a-kind version of this hoop on the bench next week!
On that note, I want to thank Loren for all the incredible information. I cannot WAIT to see the Nebu collection in Las Vegas next year!! You can check out more of Loren’s work on her website and Instagram.
WHITE bIRD was on my must-visit list when I was in Paris. I’d heard it mentioned for quite a few years by several jewelry designers I know here in the States, so I was excited to finally visit in person! They opened in 2010, and represent 50 different designers. Needless to say, I knew I’d have to spend some quality time here.
Located just a block off the famous shopping street Rue Saint Honore in the 1st Arrondissement, this charming store is on Rue Du Mont Thabor. Though it’s near the hustle and bustle of many of the big design houses, this street has a much more intimate feel. When you walk in the shop, it has a very light, airy feel. There are three main areas. Here’s the middle part of the store, where you enter.
Here’s a view from the far left of the store. The painted exposed beams really add to the ambience of the shop.
And off to the right, there’s a section with an inviting couch where you can really get serious about your jewelry selections.
The store houses many of my favorite designers, as well as quite a few that were new to me. Showcased in the window were various pieces from Dorette. I was drawn to the designer’s use of color, as well as that “eye” in earring on the right. I wasn’t surprised to find out that the designer, Catherine Levy, was inspired by her extensive travel in India. That “feel” definitely comes through in her designs.
I’ve been a big fan of Pascale Monvoisin for quite some time, but this was my first time getting to try on her work. Out of the big tray of pieces, I decided this black ring was my favorite.
I was also unfamiliar with the work of Orit Elhanati. How fabulous are these opal rings?!
Having spent weeks traveling and seeing exquisite jewelry in museums (and wanting to wear a lot of what I saw in the glass cases!), I saw these Karen Liberman necklaces, with their ancient coins and thought voila! — how to get the historical look in a modern way.
I want to thank Isabelle and Jennifer for all their time and expertise while I explored the store. It was a real treat! And for my readers, should you find yourself in Paris, definitely make a point to stop in. I dare you to leave empty-handed. I know I couldn’t!
Enjoy this article from guest blogger, Jennifer Bressie. I certainly see a theme among her picks, do you?
Every May/June, when I attend the Couture show with Amy, after drooling over all of the jewels, I come up with my lust list, which is the list of pieces that would actually fit into my lifestyle and wardrobe. I have determined there are five main reasons to buy me jewelry throughout the year. First comes my birthday in February. (This year I’ll be turning fifty which means I think I deserve a pretty exceptional piece!) This is quickly followed by Valentine’s Day, then Mother’s Day, our anniversary is in August, and finally Christmas. Here’s what I can’t stop dreaming about from this past show.
These earrings from Dana Bromfman were one of the first things we stumbled upon this year. Made of 18k gold, rutilated quartz and diamonds, these earrings can easily be worn with jeans and a t-shirt or a ball gown!
I am totally obsessed with these earrings from TAP by Todd Pownell. I think they are such cool and fresh take on the standard diamond hoop. These stunners consist of over 11 carats of marquis cut diamonds set on 14k white gold and sheet backed with 18k yellow gold. They sparkle like crazy!
The next piece, the Devi Ring from ARK Fine Jewelry, is so special. Made of 18k yellow gold, white mother of pearl, moonstone and diamonds, the ring is inspired by ancient Tantric Goddess temples. Each piece in this line, with the initials of designer Ann Korman and a reference to protection, safety and constant forward movement, has thoughtful meaning. The moonstones in the Devi Ring run north and south and symbolize intelligence, energy and inertia; the mother of pearl helps the wearer feel centered. If you are not familiar with this line, I highly recommend taking a trip over to her website where you will not only be tempted by the beauty of the pieces, but you will be inspired by the beautiful meaning and energy infused within.
I went crazy for this pearl necklace from Lene Vibe! The South Sea pearls, combined with the 18k gold and the intricate details make for a spectacular piece! I would also dress this necklace up or down.
The last piece is a small obsession of mine. Full disclosure, I encouraged my husband to purchase this for me for our recent anniversary! It’s a gorgeous Grandfather Compass from Retrouvai made of rose gold, pink opal, pink lotus garnet and diamond. In a note from designer Kirsty Stone she wrote, “Wear this pendant as a reminder to let your intuition guide you as your inner compass.” I absolutely adore this necklace and wear it all the time.
One of my favorite things about attending the show is meeting the amazingly talented designers and hearing their stories — how their life and experience influences their designs makes each piece so unique, and I feel a real connection to them when I eventually do make a purchase!
Have I told you before how much I love being a jewelry blogger and a wardrobe stylist?? It makes it all the more fun when I travel, as I get to scour new cities for the best stores and unique merchandise. Case in point was when I was in Paris this summer, and I visited Galerie Elsa Vanier on the recommendation of a couple friends. This contemporary jewelry gallery features over twenty artists, and I lucked out by visiting during the Esther Assouline exhibition. My jaw pretty much hit the floor when I saw her work. Was it ancient? New? It looked like it could be in a museum, yet it was so modern at the same time!
This necklace is perfectly imperfect, with its ancient Etruscan metal from the 6-8th Century BC, combined with woven gold and rubies. Spectacular.
And take a look at this one — a true work of art, combining old and new. The way Esther can create a perfect balance of materials so that it hangs effortlessly demonstrates that she has some mechanical engineering talents as well.
These two smaller necklaces utilize earthenware pendants with gold and gems. I can see them easily worn on their own or layered with other necklaces.
Esther doesn’t limit herself to just neck adornments. This bold 18K ring with diamonds and pearls is a showstopper.
This pair of 22k and pink tourmaline earrings are a bit more refined, yet they’re still true to her style with the texture of the gold, the irregular edges and the differing lengths. I’d wear them in a heartbeat. How about you?
Although this exhibition only ran through the end of July, I highly encourage you to stop by the gallery if you find yourself wandering the delightful streets of the 6th. (one of my favorite areas to shop in Paris for unique boutiques)
They say that when you own five or more pieces by a particular designer, then you’re officially a “collector” of that line. If that is indeed the definition, then I certainly qualify as a collector of Alberian & Aulde, the unique line created by creative duo, Warren Alberian and Mary Aulde. While I’ve spent many years getting to know their jewelry in stores such as Gallery of Jewels and Fragments, I finally had the pleasure of meeting them in person. I had to feed my parking meter twice, as I was so enthralled hearing about their work and trying on all the pieces they brought for the trunk show. In this interview, they’re sharing their latest collection, Moments. Read on for a glimpse inside the designers’ minds.
What was the inspiration for the Moments collection?
We wanted to envision a modern aesthetic that was in the rhythm of today. The baguette and square shaped gemstones spoke to that with a myriad of parallel step facets and hard angles. Our intention was to integrate and control the flow of light leading from stone to stone enabling us to capture an urban, cosmopolitan, architectural spirit…the experience you may have with constructivist cubist artwork but through the interplay of light — a fresh take on the spirit of modernity. The idea is to excite the present moment. In fact to create moments with unexpected engaging flashes of light reminiscent of shafts of light piercing the corridors of buildings in a cityscape…
As you begin creating pieces for a collection, what’s the driving force? Are you driven by the shapes? The materials?
There are certain principles of light excitation on the eye that underpin any design…that is what drives all of our designs. It is the shapes and it is the materials, but it’s something more than that, the relationship of the parts to the whole which creates a special subtle effect.
We want to make pieces that make people feel something…by the shapes, the way the light from the gem reflects, flashes and then goes dark; by the spontaneity of movement.
So, our intent is to make shapes of light that move with you….ones that are different enough for everyone to self style with in their own way, shape-wise and that compliments your vibration/aura.
The Deja Vu earrings are just gorgeous. Please tell me a bit about how they developed.
As the Deja Vu piece was in process, we called it the Mondrian. It felt like art… Warren sculpts the original pieces from wax using sketches that Mary makes…as he was sculpting, rather than making it a flat piece, he worked the stones into angles to make it dimensional on the piece so that the light reflects from many directions. A friend who saw the earring calls it holographic, which we think fits the idea for us.
The “nugget”, a cube shaped dangle that hangs from the top, is an element we made to hang from several of the pieces. The sculpture also works as a stud earring. We have made the Deja Vu earring both with and without the nugget dangle, we like it best with but some do not like a dangle.
Is there any particular symbolism in the Castle earrings?
The beauty of a piece like the Castle earring is that everyone can put their own story on it! It is designed to be open to interpretation.
We started to see the resemblance of the Moments collection to one of the first collections we ever made — one that was all one-of-a-kind pieces using baguettes, squares, triangles and other fancy shaped gemstones…that collection included our first ever Hoopla piece (interlocking rings of gemstones) and some pieces very similar to the Castle earring and Tower earrings and pendants; little sculptures of shapes, color and light attached together to create evocative jewels. We went with it …and we copied ourselves but make everything producible!
Here’s a peek into the archives — the original versions of the Tower and Castle earrings.
I don’t know about you, but hearing such detailed insights into this jewelry makes me appreciate it all the more. I want to thank Mary and Warren for their time and talent. It was a delight meeting you both, and I can’t wait to see what you create next!
If you’ve been following me here on the blog or on social media for some time, you know that I’m a huge fan of Bay Area designer, Lauren Wolf. I can’t recall where I first met her, but through visits to Esqueleto (her fab store in Oakland), seeing her at various trade shows, and at local WJA events (Women’s Jewelry Association), I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her.
I find my love of her jewelry has increased as time goes by; seeing a designer’s passion for their craft somehow increases its attraction. She began by studying silversmithing in San Miguel, Mexico, at the Sterling Quest School. She then went on to get her degree from FIT in New York City, and from how she describes it, she hasn’t looked back since!
Lauren absolutely LOVES diamond buying, where she hand picks all of her stones. She treasures her long-standing relationships with her vendors. All of her jewelry is designed and made in house in the east bay. Nice, right?
I have shared this particular three stone diamond ring before, but I must admit, to this day it is my most coveted piece of hers. The color combination, the weight of it on my hand…I’ve actually dreamt about this ring! Perhaps one day…
She has countless options in the three stone category, which I happen to find very chic. On my last visit to the store, I tried on this lovely, with dark grey diamonds. While this certainly can fall into the alternative bridal category, I think it’s equally wearable as a right hand ring, don’t you? She is a queen of unconventional diamond rings, that’s for sure.
Just recently, she posted these diamond eternity bands on her Instagram page. I honestly cannot decide which color is my favorite. What about you? Light grey? Champagne? Or dark grey?
Another show-stopper from Lauren is this six-diamond star ring. It has a cosmic vibe fit for an urban princess.
I also have to mention that Lauren makes a variety of stud earrings, which are ever-so-useful in ones jewelry box. I bought this tourmalinated quartz pair a few years back, and they are featured heavily in my earring rotation.
I am SO looking forward to visiting Lauren’s booth in Las Vegas at the end of the month to see all the latest and greatest creations! If you’d like to check out more of her line, you can visit one of her stores (Oakland and Los Angeles) or enjoy a cocktail and peruse her online shop while sitting in the comfort of your own home. (You can see what I do with my free time!) She’s also carried at a variety of retailers across the country.
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!
I think I first fell in love with fringe back in grade school, when one of my dance recital costumes had red fringe all around the skirt. I would just twirl and shake to see it dance in my bedroom mirror. What really drew me in was the movement; it was mesmerizing. This feeling is translated in a plethora of fringe earrings this season. You really get the full effect of the fringe in the form of an earring, as it sways with each movement of your head. (unlike in a necklace, where it can be a more static look, but still lovely) I’ve gathered up nine different designs to share with you. The first I got to see in person at the Sorellina booth at Couture. So fun!
You can see there’s a real range out there, from minimalist to ornate, kitschy to modern, and varying in scale. Do any of them strike your fancy? Do you have any fringe in your jewelry box? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.