This is a question that comes up from time to time when I’m jewelry shopping with clients. For many, “cabochon” is a jewelry vocabulary word which may not be part of your daily vernacular. Pronounced “kab-uh-shawn,” it refers to a rounded, highly polished cut of stone with no faceting. Typically, this cut is an oval shape (though you’ll find it in other shapes as well) with a flat bottom. Alexis Kletjian recently posted this stunning photo of a group of phrenite cabochons. Beautiful, right?
The word cabochon comes from the French word “caboche” which translates to “small dome.” Opaque gems such as turquoise, opal, moonstone, and onyx are most commonly found in this cut, as opposed to transparent gems, which are typically faceted. Personally, I adore cabochon gems — they elicit a very mystical vision in my mind.
So that you can get a clear handle on what cabochon jewelry looks like, I thought I’d share a few lovely examples.
I recently made my way to Seattle for a fun girl’s weekend. (In fact I think I’m still recovering…) I didn’t have time to do any shopping research before leaving (oh, the horrors!), so I just relied on tips from locals and hitting the pavement to see what I could find. I knew there were some gorgeous items just waiting to be discovered, and I was right!
I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear, but I think I was shopping within about and hour and a half of landing! The first boutique I visited turned out to be one of my favorites of the trip. Alhambra is conveniently located right near Pike’s Place Market, and I was delighted to meet one of the owners, a lovely Turkish woman named Serpil. When you walk into the shop, you feel transported to some exotic location. The merchandise is cleverly displayed in every nook and cranny. She carries some of my favorite jewelry designers, from Erica Molinari to Nava Zahavi. There’s a wide array of price points and styles, so I’m sure that most shoppers can find something they just “must” have.
(Side bar: If you’re into vintage jewelry, check out Isadora’s Antique jewelry just across First Street. I spotted some cool Native American pieces and some lovely 1890’s Persian turquoise.)
If you wander a few blocks further down First, you can’t miss Watson Kennedy, which is a virtual cabinet of curiosities come to life! It’s a huge store, and there is jewelry tucked in quite a few places, so you really have to spend some time looking. (like that’s a chore, right?!) I thought these earrings (made by a friend of the owner) were quite intriguing, as I do have sort of a “thing” for religious artifacts. They’re made from vintage French medallions.
Watson Kennedy doesn’t sell any fine jewelry, so you can be sure that they have lots of baubles at accessible price points. It’s a truly eclectic mix of goodies!
In talking with locals (and the ever-so-helpful concierge), I next found myself heading about 20 minutes from downtown to the Ballard neighborhood. This is purported to be an “artsy” area of town, which in my mind translates to unique jewelry! I was about done exploring and hadn’t come across anything that turned my head…and then I discovered Curtis Steiner. This triangular, well-lit shop is just amazing! Everything in this delightful boutique is either antique or hand-made by (predominantly) Washington artists. The owner designs exquisitely feminine necklaces, many of which can transform into short or long lengths.
The displays of antique jewelry abound!
The walls of the store are covered in floor-to-ceiling displays of hand-made greeting cards, also a creation of Curtis.
Of course, all this shopping makes a girl hungry. In Ballard, stop by La Carta de Oaxaca for some amazing Mexican food. Yum! Or if downtown, make your way to the Purple Cafe & Wine Bar for drinks and dinner. Gotta keep a shopping girl well-fueled!