Shopping destination: Laguna Beach and Newport Beach

I recently spent a few days in southern California checking out all the hot shopping spots from Laguna to Malibu. (and let me tell you…there are lots of them!) In Orange County, I visited two stores that had some tres chic jewelry lines that I’d never encountered before. Of course, I just have to share!

First stop was Aris on the Pacific Coast Highway, owned by the uber-cool and friendly Trey Russell. This shop was home to one of the most well-edited collections I’ve ever seen before…clothing, jewelry, housewares… it’s truly a lifestyle shop.

While peering through drawers upon drawers of jewelry, I was especially drawn to pieces by local designer Diane Cotton. I loved the diversity of her line, from chunkier necklaces with an organic, African tribal vibe, to the exquisite ribbon cuffs adorned with vintage buckles and pearls. She is clearly a collector, and her line reflects her passion.

Diane Cotton's organic-feeling jewelry

Diane Cotton's embellished bracelets

Needless to say, I must have spent more than an hour in this boutique, and I did not leave empty-handed.

Just a short drive north of Aris, I stopped at Juxtaposition in Newport Beach–an airy, eclectic interiors store. They must think like I do, as jewelry is just as much a part of one’s home as your living room couch is. I was immediately drawn to a large upright cabinet teeming with very interesting jewelry.

The line that grabbed me was Relics by Tami. Her jewelry was amazing in it’s mix of vintage parts combined with new. Each piece was highly unique and perfect for layering with other jewelry you already own.

Relics by Tami jewelry

I love that both of these lines incorporate vintage into their designs, and that they are both local designers. Next time you find yourself on the Orange County coast, be sure to allot yourself time to stop into both of these unique stores! And if you need a bite to eat to keep up that shopping energy, I can definitely recommend both Zinc or Anastasia in downtown Laguna (which happens to be a boutique and a cafe all in one!).

Jen Hansen of Peppina Jewelry

Last February, during an impromptu one-night visit to Beverly Hills, I happened upon the most amazing necklace at Fred Segal on Melrose. It has become one of my most-worn items, so I was just thrilled to meet the designer in person at her southern California trunk show back at Fred Segal last week.

Jen Hansen is the creative talent behind her Peppina jewelry line. It sparkles, it mesmerizes, and it just begs to be tried on!

Rings by Peppina Jewelry

Jen started her business almost ten years ago, although jewelry making has been a life-long hobby. She decided to delve into metal smithing and was hooked! Her beautiful jewelry is all produced in Los Angeles (very cool!), and is made of rhodium plated silver, 22K gold clad over sterling, and lucious druzy and semi-precious stones. Fred Segal is the only store in California that sells her line, so if you decided to buy one of her pieces, you’ll be sure to have something you don’t see coming and going.

Not only is Jen wonderfully creative and kind, but she also has a big heart! She is passionate about children and battling against human trafficking, so 10% of her profits go to such organizations as Not for Sale.

Jen Hansen and Amy

If the lure of druzy calls to you, then you just have to check out the Peppina Jewelry line! Enjoy. 🙂

Rona Pfeiffer: Designer

I must confess…Rona Pfeiffer is one of my all-time favorite jewelry designers. Her exquisite creations just sing to my bohemian luxe heart. From the antique beads to polki diamonds and sapphires, her pieces reflect her unique creativity and esthetic.

Necklaces by Rona Pfeiffer

I first met Rona a few years ago at a trunk show and acquired my first bracelet. Since then, I’ve made it a point to attend all her local trunk shows. I was thrilled to see her in a new venue this past week at In Her Shoes in Palo Alto. I feel this boutique is the perfect fit for her, as all the profits from this store go to charity.

Rona Pfeiffer and Amy

Formerly of the film/tv industry, Rona uses her background in painting to “paint with stones,” as she says. She is one of the only designers I’ve met who actually makes each and every piece by hand herself–no outsourcing, no big company, just Rona. She finds her distinctive materials in her travels, be it from a dark, underground store in New York where she found some vintage ivory, to a shop in London where she discovered a pile of antique beads so amazing she couldn’t pass them up. And that’s one of the cool things about her jewelry…she doesn’t have an unlimited supply of different materials, so once they’re used up, they’re gone. This really ensures that you’ll have a one-of-a kind treasure.

More lust-worthy pieces by Rona Pfeiffer

If this line appeals to your personal style, I highly encourage you to check out her amazing jewelry in person. It will easily mix and match with your current collection, be great as layering pieces or on their own.

Carmel Crossroads: Unexpected Gems

When people think about shopping in Carmel, California, they usually envision ambling along Ocean Avenue, with all it’s tucked away courtyards and charming architecture. But that’s not the only place to shop, especially for jewelry. Carmel Crossroads is a shopping area located just south of Ocean Avenue, at the intersection of Highway 1 and Rio Road. (You can’t miss it–you turn left at the traffic light just past Carmel Valley Road.)

One of my favorite places to explore is European Jeweler & Goldsmith. At first glance, you may not think this store has what you’re looking for, but you’d be surprised! I always manage to find some amazing treasures at almost too-good-to-be-true prices.

Suzan @ EJ&G
With Suzan at European Jeweler & Goldsmith

This store sells both new and consignment jewelry, and you’ll find everything from costume to fine all in the same cases. You really have to spend some time looking with a discerning eye at the merchandise, and I have no doubt that there will be pieces that you must try on!

One of the coolest things is that they sell their jewelry at 30% off the sticker price! And…they offer a “secret” house account with no interest for up to 12 months, depending on the piece. How can you lose?!

I also love their collection of Carmen Priolo jewelry, which I first encountered quite a few years back at the Saratoga Rotary Art show. Her jewelry is chunky with subdued metallics, and it’s beyond gorgeous. I believe that this is one of the only places where you can find her line outside of particular art shows.

carmen priolo jewelry
Carmen Priolo jewelry

While you’re at the Crossroads, you also have to stop into She, a very fashion-forward boutique crammed with merchandise. (It’s just across the way and up a bit from the last shop.) When I walked in there last week, the sales woman, Heidi, actually remembered me and what I had purchased there a year ago–that’s customer service!

This is one of the only boutiques where I’ve encountered Calleen Cordero jewelry, which is a designer most known for her extraordinary shoes and bags. Her leather jewelry is equally fab, with sort of a bohemian, rock-and-roll edge.

Calleen Cordero jewelry

Here, in one of the display windows of She, you’ll get an idea of the esthetic, which is very chic with an urban edge. Not exactly what you’d expect to find in this locale.

window @ She
Window display at She

So next time you’re in Carmel, don’t limit yourself to Ocean Ave. Head a bit south to Carmel Crossroads and poke around. And if you have time for a meal, also stop by the nearby Earthbound Farm for a delicious organic treat! Gotta keep that blood sugar up for all the shopping you’re going to do. 🙂

Montecito and Santa Barbara: Two Must-shop Boutiques

I make it a point to visit Montecito and Santa Barbara at least once a year. I just love the beachy atmosphere, the stunning views, and of course…the shopping! This past week I visited one of my favorite destinations in Montecito and discovered a very cool new shop on State Street in Santa Barbara.

To put it bluntly, I’d pretty much like to live in Maison K. The neutral palette highlighted with metal, glass and exotic materials just speaks to me. Kimberly Phillips, the store’s owner with a discerning eye and fabulous taste, finds treasures from around the globe to share with her clients.

kim phillips
Me with Kimberly Phillips, owner of Maison K

What really caught my eye this visit was the extraordinary case of jewelry she just brought back from Istanbul. I didn’t know where to look first–pearls? coral? turquoise? gold? Oh my, the choices!

maison k jewelry
Some baubles from Istanbul

This is definitely a must-stop for unique jewelry that you most certainly won’t see coming and going.

As I did my stroll along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, checking out all the familiar windows, I did a double take. (I love when a new store pops up!) Plum Goods is the creative product of Amy Cooper, and it opened just this past October. It’s a very eclectic shop with everything from jewelry to art to gift items. I just adore her motto, which is on the front window.

plum goods motto
Words to live by

Much of her merchandise is made by local artists, which is a huge plus in my book. Her wares are hand-crafted, fair trade, recycled and eco-chic. I spent quite some time perusing the various cases of jewelry, when a buddah necklace by Iris di Santo really caught my eye.

plum goods jewelry
A small sample of jewelry at Plum Goods

So for those of you who know me, jewelry with a buddah is right up there with horn pendants as part of my signature style. I don’t think you need to think too hard about whether or not this necklace went home with me.

buddah necklace
Buddah necklace from Plum Goods

So next time you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Santa Barbara/Montecito ‘hood, definitely check out these two gems in the world of retail and enjoy!

Polki Diamonds: Beyond the Four C’s

Last summer, as I sleepily stared out the window on a bus tour of Copenhagen, I suddenly sat upright in my seat. I had spied the most amazing jewelry store, and I vowed to find it on foot as soon as I was through with the tour. Being the jewelry-o-holic I am, I found it and purchased the most beautiful diamond ring. But…it was unlike any diamond that I had seen before. It was not perfect, not even really “cut” and I could see that the clarity was not there at all. The price certainly didn’t reflect what I was accustomed to in the world of diamonds either. Yet still the diamond had subtle luxury, and that’s when I officially fell in love with polki diamonds.

Thanks to Meredith Marks, jewelry designer extraordinaire, I was turned on to this term “polki.” Until then, I had been going under the false assumption that this type of diamond was called rose cut. In fact, in almost every store and catalogue I’ve seen in the United States, these diamonds are mislabeled. (Rose cut diamonds actually look like a rose about to bloom–they look like a diamond which has been cut upside down, creating more of a faceted dome.)

Here is a pair of Meredith’s earrings made with polki diamonds, surrounded by smaller, single-cut champagne diamonds.

Meredith Marks "Susan" earrings
"Susan" earrings by Meredith Marks

Basically, polki diamonds are uncut, rough diamonds that don’t have any of the enhancements found in traditional cut diamonds. They originate from India and are set with Kundan techniques, which don’t involve prongs or claws to set them in the metal. It’s an ancient artform from way, way back in the time of Rhajastani kings. The diamonds are typically a bit larger in size and have a subdued shine because they’re not highly polished.

Meredith Marks
Meredith Marks' Alexia ring--oh my gorgeous!

Personally, I love that these diamonds have a more ancient look. I have seen them set in oxidized sterling with gold, and they truly sparkle in that setting. They most definitely fit in with my “bohemian luxury” personal style. I think this bangle is now officially on my covet list….

Meredith Marks
Gloria bangle by Meredith Marks

I don’t know if it’s that polki diamonds are now on my radar, or that they’re becoming more popular, but I am definitely seeing more of them here in the States. (I’ve even seen a polki eternity band in the Sundance jewelry catalogue.) So keep your eyes open and you may run across a diamond with your name on it!

Julez Bryant: Designer

“Be your own sugar daddy” is Julez Bryant’s tag line, and I couldn’t agree more! I have shopped for my own jewelry with this very mantra in mind my whole adult life. Why wait for someone to buy you a beautiful gem when you can buy it for yourself? You’re worth it!

julez bryant candy bar
Julez' tag line on a chocolate bar...yum!

I was so pleased to meet her at her recent trunk show at Les Duex Copines in Burlingame, California. Julez, formerly of the tech world, has been making jewelry for about eleven years now. In speaking with her, her passion for design and sparkle were evident. She believes that jewelry should be versatile and “add a zing of casual luxury” to your wardrobe–wear her pieces with jeans or a cocktail dress. Her collection is meant to be mixed and matched, both within the line and with other jewelry you may have.

julez bryant
Meeting Julez Bryant at Les Duex Copines

She makes her jewelry in house, down in southern California. (Gotta love that!) When she started the line, she worked mostly with rose gold, and that is her signature. Now she also works with yellow and white gold, along with sterling silver. Her beautiful designs are highlighted by white, black, and cognac diamonds.

Stacking rings and a cross necklace

She is also known for her charms, which can be purchased individually or on a necklace. And if you see one of her pieces yet would like to tweak it a bit, she’s more than willing to do that as well. (as evidenced by my friend who did exactly that at the event)

a selection of Julez' disco ball necklaces

Another very cool thing about her is that she will “remodel” one of your own pieces of jewelry, incorporating the older piece with something new. While I was at the trunk show, a woman came in with a baggie of vintage jewelry, and Julez jumped right into creative gear thinking up inventive redesign plans. Just fabulous!

If you want to check out Julez Bryant’s line for yourself, be sure to visit Les Duex Copines or her website for a store location near you! You won’t be disappointed by her (and I quote) “little pieces of magic.”

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.

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.