Sometimes the universe is just brilliant — how you can cross paths with someone at just the right time, without any planning or forethought. That’s just what happened yesterday. I was checking out the latest and greatest at Gallery of Jewels in Union Square (I know…shocker!) and once again eyeing this particular ring by Sakura Haru. I’ve tried it on more than once, and I love everything about it, from the mixed metals, to the weight and comfortable fit on my finger, to the sparkle of the diamonds.
Well wouldn’t you know it, but in walked Sakura to the boutique!
Though I clearly must have been keeping her from the mission that brought her into the store in the first place, she had a sense of ease and happiness as she let me barrage her with questions about her and her line. It turns out that she’s from Japan’s southernmost island, Okinawa, where the climate resembles Miami. (Who knew?!) And for Sakura, her line is inspired by this tropical island and “fun in the sun.”
I tried on a couple more pair of earrings…
The texture in this last pair of earrings is SO unique — part of her Paleo collection. That’s when I found out why she was actually there (drum roll…) to bring in her new body chain from this collection. How fun! You can wear it over a dress, under a tank, with just a hint showing… just use your imagination!
Designing the line for 8 years now, this San Francisco-based designer makes each and every piece herself. Her work is ethically made with recycled metals, conflict-free stones, and low-waste studio practices. She was fortunate to have an amazing art teacher in high school back in Japan who introduced her to jewelry making. Clearly, she was an effective and inspirational teacher, as Sakura’s line is just beautiful. As she says, her jewelry “appeals to women who embrace beauty in natural forms.”
Here’s a shot from her website, to give you more of a feel for her work. Definitely go check it out in person if this gets your jewelry heart pumping!
I have this beautifully decorated folder called my “Style File” that sits front and center on my desk. Whenever I see something in a magazine that I love, I rip it out and add it to my file. These are not necessarily items that I can afford or even fit, but they just speak to me. Through this process, I’m really able to see my style direction, and it inspires me each and every time I look through it.
Well about a year ago I saw a pair of earrings (though I can’t even remember in what publication!) that just took my breath away. They were an elongated teardrop of some sort of horn, with the tiniest of diamonds carefully inlaid in each one. I HAD to try them on! So off I went to Barney’s, and voila, there they were, in the Monique Pean case! Yes! They were perfect — they suited my face shape, complemented my coloring, and they were as light as a feather. Had they been in my budget, I would have gone home wearing them. But alas…I am left to just dream about them.
With this experience still fresh in my mind over a year later, imagine how delighted I was to meet this talented designer in person at the Couture show.
Once I started researching Monique, it wasn’t just her incredible designs that drew me to her. In fact, she is “committed to luxury bespoke products that promote social and environmental responsibility.” Her entire line is comprised of sustainable, conflict-free and fair-trade materials. She is active in the No Dirty Gold campaign, as well as various other charities. She explained to me that mining gold releases mercury into the earth. (that’s not good!) And creating just one ring NOT using sustainable materials can create up to 20 tons of waste!! I can’t even wrap my head around that one. One of her main thrusts has been to help people get clean drinking water. Currently, she has made that happen for over 5000 people for the next 20 years. Now if that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is!!
OK, I can go on and on about this highly-awarded designer, who’s line launched in 2006, but I’ll stop there. Let’s get down to the jewels!!
Here is a classic example of how she uses fossilized walrus ivory along with black diamonds to craft a one-of-a-kind statement ring.
And here is a bracelet also made from the fossilized walrus ivory. You can really see how the natural materials have great color variation.
Not all of her pieces are on the larger scale. She also has many delicate designs as well. I think these opal slice studs would be an amazing addition to my jewelry box! (dreaming again….) She told me that all the opals she uses are hand-chiseled, with no dynamite used.
While this necklace is about the same price as a luxury automobile, I’d still choose the necklace! It’s created from diamond slices and slices of fossilized wooly mammoth.
It’s no surprise that Monique has a huge celebrity following as well, from Michelle Obama to stars of screen and stage. Here’s Leighton Meester adorned in some lovely earrings by Pean.
I just love that this jewelry is making such a positive impact on the earth, in addition to making it more gorgeous. I hope to one day own my own piece by Monique, but in the meanwhile, I will keep appreciating the collection and all Monique does for our planet.
Vanessa Leu is another uber-talented designer I had the privilege of meeting at the Couture show in Las Vegas. Born in Taiwan, Vanessa spent years as a journalist in Vietnam…not your typical background for going into jewelry! She came to the states in the 80’s and enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America. Well let me tell you, I’m thrilled she made this career change, as her designs are quite fabulous!
Here’s one of the first pieces that caught my eye. It’s a sculptural cuff made from re-claimed metal and conflict-free stones, as is her entire collection. In fact, she is so adamant about fair-trade working conditions, that she actually visits where the jewelry is being made to make sure everything is up to par.
Vanessa has a strong spiritual side to her, with a life-long Zen practice and following the teachings of the philosopher Lao Tzu. She truly strives to show a meeting of east and west in her designs, which “marries the beauties of two cultures and transcends the soul.” With minimalist lines, she really gets this feeling across in her line. Here is an outstanding pair of earrings, which I’ve spied on more than one celebrity recently!
In fact, here’s Nicole Scherzinger at a London movie premier wearing these dramatic dangles in another color.
Not only is Vanessa a very eco-conscious designer, she’s also got a big heart. She donates a portion of her profits to charity, really paying it forward. What a cool lady!
I have had the privilege of attending the Couture Jewelry show the past few days in Las Vegas. Known as THE show to attend, you can only imagine that I was giddy with delight from my first step into the ballroom. No matter which way you turned, there were salons filled with the most gorgeous jewelry you can imagine. There were multitudes of talented designers that were new to me, some designers that I’ve only read about (and dying to meet) were there in person, and of course some of my long-time favorite lines as well. The diamonds, the pearls, the brightly colored gemstones…it was quite overwhelming.
I interviewed my little heart out, and in the months to come, I’ll be sharing what I discovered with all of you. I met people from around the globe, and I learned so much about design, the industry and how many jewelers are really becoming eco-conscious. Have you ever heard of the “No Dirty Gold” campaign? Well neither had I until I spoke with Monique Pean while drooling over her designs. No worries — I’ll fill you in on all the scoop.
So get ready, first up this week will be a treasure from Stockholm Sweden….