Archive for the ‘American Design’ Category

January Birthstone Charms And Pendants – Garnet

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The birthstone for January is Garnet in pretty much every tradition except for the mystical where it is Emerald (more on Emeralds in a separate post). Garnet is also the anniversary gemstone for the second and sixth year of marriage, the zodiac birthstone for Capricorn and Aquarius, and the planetary stone for Pluto.

I love the brilliant sparkle of garnets (it also happens to be my birthstone), and I’m not the only one. They have been popular for thousands of years (even though many of the varieties we talk about here have been found in the past century), both as adornment and as protective talismans. Legend has it that Noah put a garnet in a lantern to light his way in the night, and the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used them in jewelry.

As usual, if you want to skip the text and go straight to the featured charms and pendants, just scroll down to the end of the post.

Garnet Healing Properties

In crystal healing, garnets in general are connected to the sacral chakra and are believed to help with the reproductive system and PMS, boost passion for life, charisma, creativity and libido, stabilize emotions, combat negativity and feelings of inferiority, inspire love, bring luck, success and protection. (There is more on the specific properties for each type of garnet in the descriptions below).

Physical Properties of Garnets

Garnet is most often thought of as a red gemstone (indeed the word “garnet” is often used to describe deep red items), but the fact is that garnets come in many different colors, each with its own name and properties.

Garnets are a family of silicates with basically the same crystal structure, and the variations in color are due to different chemical compositions.  There is a lot of overlapping between the different types, and trade names abound. Even the experts sometimes disagree on what’s what, but everyone agrees that there are two main groups – Ugrandite and Pyralspite – which each include three “main species”.

Simply put, the Ugrandites are calcium silicates and include Andradite (iron), Grossular (aluminum) and Uvarovite (chromium) garnets. The Pyralspites are aluminum silicates and include Almandine (iron), Pyrope (magnesium), and Spessartite (manganese) garnets. Each of these “main species” have several “sub”-varieties which are usually a blend of two or more of the main types. The colors vary depending on the balance of the blend, and unlike many other gemstones, they are never treated, so what you see is what nature actually created. Good job, nature! 🙂

Almandine Garnets

Almandine Garnet is a deep purple or brownish red. It is an abundant and affordable stone, the most common of the garnets. It is thought to help the wearer focus, increase productivity, and promote stamina. The Almandine family also includes:

Rhodolite Garnets, a blend of Almandine and Pyrope. The name comes from the Greek and means “rose stone”, and these very pretty pink garnets come in many shades from light pink to purple. They were first discovered in North Carolina in the late 1800s, but today they are mainly mined in India and Africa. It is a fairly abundant and affordable variety. The most sought after (and most expensive) color is Raspberry pink. Rhodolites are believed to help with frigidity, stabilize the metabolism, and enhance inspiration and intuition.

Mozambique Garnets. Also a mix of Almandine and Pyrope, and very similar to Rhodolites, but a bit darker and more on the red side. Widely available and affordable.

Umbalite Garnets are a blend of Almandine and Pyrope with a little bit of Spessartite mixed in, resulting in a purplish pink stone, ranging from light to dark fuchsia. It is really a variety of Rhodolite named for the location where it is mined (the Umba Valley of Tanzania). Pretty rare and sought after, they can be on the expensive side.

Star Garnets (also known as Asteriated Almandine) are such a dark red they almost look black. It is the state gemstone of Idaho (where, in addition to India, they are mined) and they get their name from rutile needles (mineral “straws” running through the stone), which create a star-like effect known as asterism. The most common is a four-ray pattern, but they are also found with six rays (supposedly in Idaho only). They are always cabochon cut, and fairly affordable.

Pyrope Garnets

The Pyrope garnet family includes Rhodolite, Mozambique, Umbalite (all described above), and of course Pyrope. Pyropes (also known as Bohemian garnets) are those deep blood red stones that people usually think of when hearing the word garnet. They were extremely popular during the Victorian era and are often found in antique jewelry. Today however, they have faded from fame, and are consequently very affordable.

Andradite Garnets

This rarest and most expensive family of garnets include Demantoid, Mali, Melanite, Topazolite and Rainbow garnets.

Demantoid Garnet is the star of the Andradite family and comes in a variety of green hues, from pale peridot-like yellow-green to intense, deep emerald-like hues. The stone, one of Karl Fabergé’s favorites, was first discovered in the mid 1800s and is the rarest, most brilliant, and most expensive of all the garnets (generally, the darker the green and the clearer the stone, the more expensive it is). Demantoid garnets are believed to boost vitality and alleviate fear, insecurity and feelings of loneliness.

Mali Garnet (sometimes called Grandite), a mix of andradite and Grossular garnet, was discovered in Mali in 1994. This beautiful brilliant yellow-green (and many shades thereof) stone is very rare and consequently expensive.

The dramatic black opaque Melanite get its color from titanium (it is also sometimes referred to as Black Andradite Garnet or Titanian Andradite). It is common, very popular in jewelry, and inexpensive. Melanite is thought to remove energy blockages, enhance relationships and remove anger, distrust, envy and jealousy.

The yellow Topazolite is named for its similarity (in color) to topaz, and comes in hues ranging from yellow-green to darker brownish amber yellow. It is rarely found in pieces large enough to use in jewelry. It is believed to help stabilize spiritual and emotional turbulence and protect frail people and young children.

Rainbow garnet is a dark brown (with an orange tint) iridescent Andradite first discovered in Japan in 2004 (now also mined in Mexico and New Mexico). It is among the most rare of all the garnets and you don’t see it a whole lot in jewelry.

Grossular Garnets

The Grossular Garnet family has quite a wide color range and includes Tsavorite, Hessonite,  Merelani Mint, Rosolite, Leuco and Hydrogrossular garnets. In crystal healing, Grossular garnets are thought to help with emotional trauma and promote peace and tranquility, both externally and internally.

The intensely green Tsavorite Garnet, ranging in hues from bright yellow green to deep, almost bluish green, was first discovered by Scottish geologist Campbell Bridges in Tanzania in 1967. Tsavorite was eventually brought to the US where Tiffany & Co’s Henry Platt gave it its name and started promoting it. It is a rare and difficult stone to mine, but in spite of that, less expensive than emeralds. It is, however, the second most expensive of the garnets, and prices for “perfect” stones equal those of Demantoid. Tsavorite is connected to the heart chakra and is thought to help with inflammatory diseases (like rheumatism and arthritis), kidney function and boost the immune system.

Merelani Mint Garnets are “cousins” of Tsavorites and get their name (Merelani) from the area in Tanzania where they were first discovered. Also a brilliant, sparkling green, but lighter in hue (mint green), these garnets are rare and expensive.

Hessonite Garnet ranges in color from almost clear to warm golden yellow, orange and brownish orange red and is also known as the Cinnamon Stone. It has been used in jewelry for thousands of years, particularly in carved pieces like intaglios and cameos. It is a fairly affordable stone thought to have many healing properties. It is an important stone in Ayurveda, where it is known as Gomed, and is associated with the planet Rahu. In short, it is believed that wearing a good-sized hessonite garnet can counter the ill effects that Rahu can cause, and it also brings luck, wealth, good health, success and longevity. In western crystal healing, it is believed to promote self respect, regulate hormones, and help us move forward in life and take on new challenges.

Rosolite is a bright pink Grossular garnet that ranges from transparent to opaque. They are mostly mined in Mexico, very rare and usually too small to be cut to gemstones.

Leuco (from the Greek leukos, meaning “white”) garnets are fairly rare, transparent, colorless Grossular garnets, hardly ever seen in jewelry.

Hydrogrossular garnets, also called Transvaal Jade, are inexpensive, opaque Grossular garnets from the Transvaal region of Africa.

Spessartite (or Spessartine) Garnets

Spessartites are my favorites! The garnets in this family come in many hues of orange, from bright sunny “juicy” hues to deep orange-red. They get their orange color from manganese, and the more iron (in the form of almandine) the stone contains, the darker the orange. Spessartite garnets are thought to help with fertility, lactose intolerance, depression and fear, strengthen the immune system, promote creativity, confidence, beneficial risk taking and rational thought. This family includes:

Spessartite (or Spessartine). First discovered in the mid-1800s in Spessart (Germany), the bright orange Spessartite was for some reason not particularly popular, except for among gemstone connoisseurs and collectors. These days, they are very popular, but in spite of that, fairly affordable, thanks to their relative abundance.

Mandarin Garnets (also known as Tangerine) are highly sought after Spessartites from Namibia. They were first discovered in 1991, and the find helped propel Spessartite garnets into the spotlight. They are darker in color and much more expensive than “regular” Spessartites.

Malaia (or Malaya) Garnets, a mix of Spessartite, Almandine and Pyrope, were first discovered in Tanzania in the 1960s. Colors range from pinkish orange to orange/brown/pink with a touch of yellow (stunning!) to rich honey hues to deep red orange, and the most priced are those described as peach colored. They are very rare (only found in the Umba Valley of East Africa) and prices range from fairly to very expensive.

There is also a variety called Imperial garnet, which is very similar to the Malaia; the difference is that the Imperial garnets come from Madagascar or the Linde province of Tanzania. They are a mix of Spessartite and Pyrope and come in colors from very pale peach to red pink, often with rutile inclusions.

Color Change garnets are amazing! A mix of Spessartite and Pyrope, they appear to change color depending on the lighting situation. Some are dramatically different, shifting from grayish green when viewed in daylight to deep red in incandescent light; some go from pale yellow in daylight to bright orange in incandescent; while others display only slight shifts in hue. It has always been said that garnets come in every color except blue, but the discovery of certain color change garnets changed that: there are some that look blue in artificial light (and purplish pink in daylight). Color change garnets are rare, popular, and expensive.

Uvarovite Garnets

The dark green Uvarovite garnets were first discovered in Russia in the 1830s and are rarely found in clear gemstone quality. More common is Uvarovite drusy (drusy is a term for a coating of crystals that have formed on the surface of a rock, giving it a sparkly, sugar-like appearance) and as drusy has become quite popular in the jewelry world, you can find quite a bit of it. It is fairly inexpensive.

Other Names

You occasionally also come across a few other garnet names such as:

Kashmarine
Taveta
Champagne
Hollandine
Gooseberry

These are not other varieties of garnets, they are names given to the stones above by traders, sellers, etc. for various reasons.

– Kashmarine is Spessartite from Pakistan
– Taveta is blue color-change garnet from Kenya’s Taita-Taveta region (pretty spectacular)
– Hollandine was the original name for Mandarin garnets
– The term “Champagne” is sometimes used to describe yellow-brown Andradite and Imperial garnets
– Gooseberry is another name for Grossular garnets – the word Grossular comes from the Latin grossularia, which means “gooseberry”.

That was a lot of information! Here, finally, is my selection of charms and pendants that showcase some of these beautiful gemstones:

1. Stunning antique (ca 1910) 14k rose gold pendant set with 95 Demantoid garnets. From Past Era Antique Jewelry.

2. 14k Rhodium-plated white gold charm with diamonds and Tsavorite garnets. By JewelryWeb

3. For once, something for the guys: a sterling silver and color change garnet tag necklace by David Yurman. The garnets are a bluish green in daylight and purple-red in incandescent light.

4. Pandora sterling silver and Melanite pendant

5. Sterling silver necklace with a checker cut Spessartite garnet charm pendant by New York artist Yvonne Raley. NOTE: I have to confess that I bought this necklace as a birthday present to myself – I just fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. But no worries, Yvonne has one more identical charm pendant and more jewelry featuring Spessartite in the works (as well as lots of other gorgeous gemstone jewelry).

6. 14k gold and Rhodolite Garnet charm by JewelryWeb

7. Grossular garnet, Tsavorite and sterling silver egg pendant by Fabergé.

8. 18k gold Trollbeads charm set with opal, amethyst, turquoise, lapis lazuli and garnet.

9. White freshwater pearl stretch bracelet with a sterling silver and Almandine garnet charm. By Amy Conway.

10. Hammered 14k gold pendant set with a Hessonite garnet by Massachusetts artist Laura Roberson.

Collage by Charms Guide
All content © Charms Guide


Christmas And Winter Holiday Charms And Beads – Christmas Trees

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Trees have held a special meaning for people since ancient times, and bringing evergreens indoors during winter is something that has long been practiced in many cultures. In some countries, they were thought to keep evil spirits, illness and ghosts at bay; in some they were symbols of deities, and in others, they were simply a reminder that summer – and another growing season – would return.

The Christmas tree as we know it is thought to have begun in the southern parts of 15th century Germany, where people brought fir trees indoors and decorated them with apples. The trees were an important part of the Winter Solstice celebration, and they were believed to keep evil spirits away (who were supposed to be particularly active on Christmas eve). Apples later turned into ornaments, and Martin Luther (the Protestant reformer) is credited with contributing the tradition of adding lights. The custom spread through Europe, but did not reach the US until the early 1800s, and even then, many here regarded them as pagan symbols. It wasn’t until the early 1850s, when a slightly doctored print of of Queen Victoria and her family (in order to “Americanize” them, Prince Albert’s mustache and the Queen’s tiara were removed) with their decorated Christmas tree was published in the US that the Christmas tree became popular.

There is also an interesting variation on the story on how the Christmas tree came to be: the story of St. Boniface. St Boniface was Christian missionary in Germany in the 600-700s, everyone agrees to that, but the thoughts on his impact on the Christmas tree tradition varies. Some say he cut down fir trees in the woods of Thüringen and used their triangular shape to demonstrate the trinity, and the people in the area started bringing the trees indoors, although they hung them upside down from the ceiling. Some claim that when St. Boniface returned to Germany after an absence, he found that the locals had revered to their pagan winter celebrations, which included the sacrifice of a young man under Odin’s oak tree. Enraged, he cut down the oak with a single blow of an axe, which impressed and scared the people. As the oak fell, it had narrowly missed a small fir tree, and when the frightened people asked St. Boniface how they should celebrate, he pointed to the fir and told them to bring such a tree, which symbolized immortality and peace, into their homes.

Today, a Christmas tree is an essential part of the holiday in many countries across the world, even some that are not mainly Christian. They certainly add an unmatched coziness to the celebrations, and every time I walk into a home with a decorated and lit Christmas tree, I feel like a child again – that happy excitement and expectation you always had for weeks (or even months) leading up to the big event.

Now that we’re properly educated on the subject :-), here are some recent favorite Christmas tree charm finds:

Collage by Charms Guide

1. Sterling silver charm by Rembrandt

2. Sterling silver charm by Amanda Jo

3. Sterling silver charm with a gold star by Brighton

4. Sterling silver charm with marcasites and cubic-zirconias by Judith Jack

5. Enameled pewter charm by Jewelry by Aimee

6. Pandora charm bead in sterling silver with a 14k gold star

7. Sterling silver charm bead for the Lovelinks Petit collection. By Lovelinks

8. 18k gold charm with emerald and blue and pink sapphires by Tiffany & Co

9. Rhodium plated charm with metallic green epoxy and crystals by Swarovski

10. Sterling silver charm bead by Zable

For more Christmas-related charms, also see my Santa’s Sleigh charms post.

All content © Charms Guide


December Birthstone Charms – Blue Topaz, Tanzanite, Turquoise, Zircon And Ruby

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Birthstones in general are thought to have begun with the biblical breastplate of Aaron (around 1300 B.C.) – a garment set with 12 precious stones – and it is believed that each stone was associated with a zodiac sign (like in Vedic astrology and Ayurvedic medicine). The tradition of associating specific gemstones with particular months is rumored to have begun in Poland in the 1700s, and the list as we know it today here in the US was adopted as a standard by the National Association of Jewelers in 1912.

The Birthstones For December

While most agree on which stone(s) go with which month, there are some variations. For December, the standardized stones in the modern tradition are Tanzanite, Turquoise and Zircon. Some also include Blue Topaz, but in several ancient traditions (as well as Ayurveda), Ruby is the stone for this month. So the December birthstone color is mainly variations of blue, with the blood red ruby as an exception.

As always with gemstones, each birthstone is said to have certain properties, meanings and powers. Here is a little bit of information on each stone (scroll down to the end of the post to see my selection of a few favorite charms incorporating these stones):

Tanzanite

A mineral discovered in Tanzania as late as 1967, Tanzanite (scientifically known as blue Zoisite) didn’t become an official birthstone of December until 2002 (and is the only addition to the original list from 1912). Its natural color is a brownish red, and it takes a good bit of heat to bring out that purple/deep blue color. It was discovered after a wildfire on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro by geologist Manuel D’Souza who brought it to Tiffany & Co’s attention. They re-named the Zoisite “Tanzanite” and brought it to the market with great success. It is a popular, rare and consequently expensive stone – it is only found in Tanzania and once the supply is gone, it’s gone. Tanzanite is also the anniversary gemstone for the 24th year of marriage.

Tanzanite is said to help open the heart and third eye chakras and aid in communication with the spiritual world.

Zircon

The word Zircon derives from the Arabic and means gold and color, and Zircon (not to be confused with cubic zirconia) does come in a variety of colors. Its natural hues are in the brown, orange and red family, but it also comes in green and yellow and, with the help of heat treatment, clear and blue. The clear variety has long been used as a diamond imitation, but today, the most popular hue is blue (a very pretty light pastel aqua color). Zircon can be found in many places around the world (although most are mined in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam), and it is a relatively inexpensive, and very popular, gemstone.

Zircon is an important stone in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is thought to bring wisdom, a noble heart, good luck, joy and wealth. It also relieves pain, helps with sleep problems, and protects the muscles, bones, nerves and organs. I think we can all use one of these! 🙂

Blue Topaz

Pure Topaz is clear as glass, but thanks to a variety of impurities, it also comes in many colors, including red, pink, brown, yellow (November’s birthstone), orange, purple, green and blue. The blue variety is the most popular one, and while it does sometimes occur naturally, the blue color is most often achieved with the help of irradiation (radiation) and heat treatment. The resulting colors range from a pale baby blue (known as Sky Blue) to the crisp Swiss blue to a nice, rich deep, almost teal, blue (called London or Super Blue). Blue Topaz, which is also the anniversary gemstone for the 4th year of marriage, is available in abundance, and as with all gemstones, the price depends on the purity and size of the stone, but in general, it is quite affordable.

Blue Topaz is said to balance one’s emotions, bring mental clarity, truth, abundance, joy and love, and help the third eye’s ability to see at a higher level. Other topaz healing uses include wounds and eating disorders.

Turquoise

Turquoise is one of the oldest known gemstones, used and appreciated for thousands of years, not only for its beauty, but also because it was believed to be a good luck talisman. Turquoise is of course turquoise, and it gets its blue-green color from copper. There are other, less common, variations on the color such as a deeper blue-green and bright green, and the color depends on the chemical composition of the earth where it is formed. The best quality Turquoise is a solid robin’s egg blue with no discolorations or veins, and most of these can be found in Iran and the southwestern part of the US. Turquoise, which is also the 11th wedding anniversary gemstone, is plentiful and affordable.

An important stone in crystal healing, turquoise is thought to protect the (physical) body, help the chi flow and combat depression. It helps with communication and creativity and strengthens the immune system. It is also believed to bring friendship, courage, a long life, happiness and good luck.

Ruby

The popular Ruby is the birthstone for December in the Ayurvedic and Traditional system. In the modern, standardized list of birthstones, it is the stone for July, and it is also the 40th wedding anniversary gemstone as well as the zodiac birthstone for Capricorn. It is the red variety of the mineral corundum (a crystalline form of aluminum oxide) – all other corundum colors are called sapphires. The red color is the result of the (natural) addition of chromium, and colors range from light pink to deep red. Most rubies are heat treated to bring out richer color and more clarity, and the darker the color, the more valuable the stone. It is an expensive gemstone (several thousand dollars per carat for top-notch stones) – a ruby bracelet owned by Marlene Dietrich sold at Sotheby’s in 1992 for $990,000 (it was admittedly jawdroppingly stunning, but still!).

Ruby stimulates the heart chakra and is said to protect the heart from emotional suffering, aid in making wise decisions, promote happiness, a positive outlook, and ideal relationships. It is also thought to help with detoxification, eye problems, heart conditions, remove infections in the blood, reduce nightmares and depression and ward off evil spirits.

Whew, that was a lot of information! Let’s move on to the visual part of this post – my handpicked selection of some of my favorite December birthstone jewelry:

Collage by Charms Guide

1. Sterling silver charm with Turquoise, Rhodonite, Mother-of-Pearl, Sugilite, and Malachite inlay. By Carolyn Pollack

2. Sterling silver and turquoise charm necklace by Dogeared

3. Sterling silver and ruby heart charm from Blue Nile

4. Sterling silver bead charm with silver and Tanzanite heart dangle by Lovelinks® by Aagaard

5. Sterling silver necklace with silver key and Blue Topaz charm by Fifilabonge

6. 14k gold and blue zircon Mother and child charm from Reeds Jewelers

7. 18k gold, topaz and onyx evil eye charm from Links of London USA

8. Charm necklace with gold dipped flower and faceted Blue Topaz from Simply Brie Designs

9. Sterling silver and blue topaz baby shoe charm from Netaya

10. Rose gold, turquoise and Swarowski crystal charm bracelet by Jaidan Designs

All content © Charms Guide


Holiday Gift Guide – Elephant Charms

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Elephants have long been symbols of strength, power, intelligence, wisdom and excellent memory in many cultures across the globe, and in some, they are even deities: India has Ganesh and Airavata, Thailand has Erawan. There are also lots of other beliefs and folklore associated with elephants, and many consider them to be good luck. Some say that is true only if the trunk is up; others claim only white elephants can be considered lucky.

I personally love elephants on everything and think they are all lucky. I never leave the house without my little Ganesh charm – he is said to bring wisdom and remove obstacles, and who can’t use that on a daily basis? I put him on either a necklace, bracelet or just as is in a pocket.

Here is a little roundup of some recent favorite elephant charm finds:

1. Trollbeads Indian elephant charm

2. 14k White, Yellow and Rose Gold Elephant Charm from GiveMeGold Opulent and blingy with cubic zirconias

3. This charm by artist Heidi Gibson is actually a tiny oil painting on canvas! From Charmed By Heidi

4. Good Luck Elephant Charm Necklace from Dogeared

5. “My” Ganesh, from Shanti Boutique Fair Trade Designs

6. Sterling Silver Elephant Charm from Thomas Sabo

7. Elephant cabochon charm in glass and 18k gold plated brass from Anthropologie

8. Elephant Good Luck Leather wrap Charm Bracelet from The Lucky Elephant

Collage by Charms Guide
All content © Charms Guide


Sundance Charm Necklaces And Bracelets

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

I have always loved pretty much everything I see in the Sundance catalog (and have been the lucky recipient of many a birthday and Christmas present from there). I just got the latest one in the mail and was extra delighted to see that there are more charm necklaces and bracelets than I have seen from them in one catalog before. There is definitely a trend going on right now with personalized jewelry in general, and charm necklaces in particular, and there are some of those in this catalog as well.

For those who haven’t heard of them before (oh, are you in for a treat!), Sundance is a jewelry, clothing and home decor company in Utah, founded by Robert Redford (yes, the actor) in 1969. What started as a small local store has grown into a major mail order company (but they still have three stores: one in Utah, one in California and one in Colorado). The first catalog was sent out in 1989 to a small group of people – today the company publishes 35 catalogs/year and they are sent out to millions of customers. And the Sundance Group now also includes the film festival, TV channel, a resort, Sundance Cinemas, and the Sundance Institute.

What I really like about their products (aside from how beautiful they are in their rustic, slightly rough and bohemian way) is that most are handmade by (amazing) artisans. And you can read their bios on the Sundance website, so you get to know a little bit about the person who made your piece of jewelry.

Anyway, here are some of the gorgeous charm necklaces and bracelets from the latest catalog that are definitely going on my wish list (which you can set up right on their site and then share with potential gift-givers. 🙂 )

Collage: Charms Guide
Photos: Sundance Catalog


Holiday Gift Guide Series – Cupcake Charms

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Chocolate Cupcake Charm Necklace from A Fine Distraction

I don’t think the cupcake craze of the last decade has escaped anybody’s attention. Magnolia Bakery in New York City is usually credited with starting it in the mid 90s, and their creations really rose to fame after being featured in Sex and the City. They are still as popular as ever, and have even gone worldwide: last year, they openend a bakery/store in the Dubai Mall. Tourists from all over the world still flock to the original NYC store as well – I went a few years ago with a friend who was visiting from overseas and had to see it (and eat a cupcake). It’s tiny! But the cupcakes are good.

These days, cupcakes are everywhere: now, there are many bakeries and stores solely devoted to making cupcakes, cupcake caterers, cupcake blogs, cupcake food trucks, cupcake books, wedding cakes, apparel, holiday ornaments, home decor, there is “Cupcake Wars” (an entire show about cupcakes) on Food Network; and what might just take the prize as the trippiest take on the sweet treats ever: cupcake cars from Nieman Marcus. These $25,000 customized motor-driven vehicles – which come with matching hats for the drivers – are surprisingly intended for adults!

There is of course also cupcake jewelry in many forms. Naturally, we are focusing on charms here, and I have put together a collection of some recent favorite finds:

From left to right, starting on row 1:
1. Amore LaVita sterling silver and enamel charm (note the little candle!)
2. Chamilia charm bead
3. CHARM IT! base metal and enamel charm
4. Diva Diamonds Sterling silver and Enamel Charm
5. Juicy Couture14k gold, enamel and rhinestone moveable charm
6. Links of London sterling silver charm
7. Pandora sterling silver and 14k gold charm bead
8. Sweet and Savory Trinkets polymer clay charm
9. Pnut white gold and diamonds charm
10. Rembrandt 14k Yellow Gold and enamel
11. Charming by Ti Sento Rhodium plated sterling silver, cubic zirconia and enamel charm
12. Tiffany 18k white and yellow gold charm with precious stones
13. Tiffany sterling silver and enamel charm
14. Sweet Bling “One Haute Cupcake” charm in 14k white and rose gold
15. Piercing Pagoda Sterling Silver and Enamel Charm
16. Zable sterling silver charm bead

For more gift ideas, check out my Unusual Pendants and Charm Bracelet Charms, Jewelry Men Gifts for Father’s Day and Charmed Bracelets and Necklaces for Mother’s Day posts (and stay tuned for more to come!)


Unusual Pendants And Charm Bracelet Charms

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

The holidays are approaching with the speed of light, and I don’t know about you, but I’m already thinking (ok, slightly panicking) about my Christmas shopping. It’s not easy to come up with new, brilliant ideas for what to give year after year, so I thought I’d start a mini-series of posts featuring items that would make perfect gifts. First out are some very unique pendants and charms. Happy shopping!

Baby Teeth Charms

Oregon-based Kim Kovel has designed clothing for many of the most well-known sports brands, and came up with the idea for these charms when her son lost his first baby tooth. She made a gold version of it and wore it on a necklace. People started asking her where she got it, and soon, a new business was born: Le Knockout. The company makes custom charms from baby teeth using the lost wax casting method (i.e. a mold is created from the actual tooth, the tooth is removed and the mold is then filled with precious metal). This creates an exact replica of the tooth, and they are available in 14k gold or sterling silver, either plain, engraved with a letter or set with a small diamond. If you love the idea but don’t have kids, no worries: you can get your own teeth made into a charms too.

Photos: Le Knockout

Diamonds Are Forever

It’s People! (and pets)
The colorful diamonds from LifeGem are actually made from either a lock of hair or the cremated ashes of the customers’ human or animal family members. While one’s first reaction may be (and certainly was in my case) Yuck! you can’t deny that they are pretty to look at, and most of us do want to have some sort of keepsake to remember our loved ones by. The stones are created by collecting carbon during the cremation process (you get to keep the ashes) which is then put into the company’s diamond presses. The presses are made to replicate what the earth does naturally (apply heat and pressure) to create the stones. While they are man made diamonds, the final result has the exact same hardness and molecular composition as the real thing. You can get them in ¼ – 1 ½ carats in many different cuts, set in rings and pendants. Strange? Yes. Creepy? A little bit. Pretty? Most definitely.

Photos: LifeGem

Brains and Hearts and…

Pnuts’ creations are (thankfully) not made from the real thing, but unusual nevertheless. The charms and pendants are made from silver, 14k and 18k gold, some have precious stones, and all are handmade by Rusty Pistachio, the man behind the Pnuts brand. He also makes rings, cufflinks, earrings and key chains. When he’s not making jewelry, he tours with H2O, a hardcore/punk band.

Photos: Pnuts

Tentacles

San Francisco artist Deana Fukatsu of OctopusMe creates pendants, bracelets, rings, earrings, cuff links and tie tacks from real octopus tentacles, using the lost wax method. The pieces are hand cast in sterling silver or gold, textured and finished by hand. The silver pieces are oxidized, and some have precious stones (diamonds, rubies, sapphires, etc.).

I find Diana’s work intriguing to say the least, and asked her “Why octopuses”? How did you come up with the idea?” She replied: “The octopus is a sensual, cunning genius…. a master of disguise. I think they are one of the most amazing creatures. I like the connection of the octopus as a symbol of transformation and their powers to regenerate limbs. I feel people also have healing powers but often times we forget...”

I came up with the idea while eating at a Sushi restaurant in San Francisco. I was working with a Master Jeweler at the time doing his casting and wax. I had this Aha moment when I saw the Tako (Octopus). The earrings in the first photo was my flagship piece. I was thinking it was a fun play on the half hoop earring and if you were someone who worked in corporate America who wanted to express your own style, it could be as subtle as an earring. I think the jewelry people wear tells about them. So I made a pair for myself. The amazing energy really came from Etsy though. I posted them up right before I went to Burning Man in 2007. The rest was magic and OctopusME was born. Thank you so much to Etsy and all of the Etsians!

Photos: OctopusMe

For more gift ideas, also see the Cupcake Charms, Jewelry Men Gifts for Father’s Day and Charmed Bracelets and Necklaces for Mother’s Day posts (and stay tuned for more to come!)


New Charms (And More) From Tiffany & Company

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Tiffany and Co have released their fall and holiday collections, and as usual, there are lots of gorgeous items in all categories, from cute holiday charms to luxurious leather bags and clutches:

Venezia
This is the beautiful new Paloma Picasso collection, and it consists of scroll-like pendants and earrings in gold and silver (“Luce”); earrings in gold, amethyst and diamond as well as heart pendants in gold with diamonds (“Goldoni”); and star-shaped pendants, bangles, and a gold, diamond and deep blue enamel ring (“Stella”).

Era
A 60s-70s-inspired little collection of sterling silver squarish bangles, a ring and a pendant, with a cutout letter on each side, spelling out LOVE.

Charms
There are three new charms, all in sterling silver with Tiffany blue enamel, and all holiday themed: a reindeer, stocking and hat.

Locks Bangles
These are three solid bangles in silver and gold in different widths, two with cutout lock images, and one with a cute little lock charm in silver and rose gold.

Conique
Gorgeous and classic gold, diamond and red spinel necklace and bracelet by Jean Schlumberger (for those with a generous jewelry budget – they sell for $275,000 and $125,000, respectively).

Diamond Hoops
New from Elsa Peretti, a delicate and understated necklace and bracelet, both in relatively thin gold wire with a diamond at each end.

Platinum & Diamonds
The Soleste is a platinum ring set with diamonds; the Grace is a set of platinum earrings and a pendant, all with diamonds, and (this one is my favorite) there is an absolutely stunning new platinum pendant with diamonds and a large sapphire. I’d put it on my Christmas wish list, but I very much doubt I get it – it sells for $500,000…

Bags
I know this is a blog about jewelry, but I can’t resist mentioning the absolutely adorable clutches in the new leather collection. The whole bag collection is fabulous, but the clutches… oh so cute! My favorite by far is the “bracelet clutch” in deep red velvet with a bracelet-like handle (and it’s a relative bargain at $995).

All photos: Tiffany


New Chamilia Bracelets And Beads

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

It’s not just the Pandora charm people who stay busy during the summer. Chamilia has made several new exciting announcements recently.

Swarovski
In a recent collaboration with Swarovski, they created 205 new silver charm beads, all set with Swarovski crystals. They will be available in Swarovski stores starting in August, and prices will range from $30 to around $100.

Siena
There is also another new group of beads and bracelets, the “Siena Collection”. It consists of 24 silver beads and charms with Murano glass and Swarovski crystals in autumn-like reds, greens and browns and a whole new style of snake chain bracelets called Terrazzo. The bracelets are made with tiny beads and come in silver ($160) and mixed gold (which consists of silver, yellow and rose gold beads and retails for around $1,200). There are also Terrazzo necklaces (same type of design) which sell for $250 and $2,500, respectively.

Miss Chamilia
The new Miss Chamilia collection consists of twelve silver beads with purple, turquoise, white and pink crystals, and three gorgeous Murano glass beads in blues and pinks.

Sojourn
At JCK Las Vegas (at the beginning of June), Chamilia announced a whole brand new line ofjewelry called the “Sojourn Collection”, to be released in the fourth quarter of 2011. Sojourn will consist of bracelets, rings and “accents” – interchangeable gemstone pieces (citrine, peridot, amethyst, etc.) that are clasped onto the rings and bracelets.

The design has definitely been taken in a new direction with this collection: sterling silver mesh bracelets, mesh hammered and fluted sterling silver rings, and pinstripe leather bracelets. Each piece will be sold individually, and prices are set at $50 to $95 for the accents, $75 for the leather bracelets, $100 for the rings and $200 for the silver bracelets.

Photo: Higashi Pearls & Fine Jewelry

All this hard work has not gone unnoticed: In June, Camilla’s founders, Killian Rieder and Jeff Julkowski received a very special recognition: the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (for the Upper Midwest region).

Fall always bring new, fun designs to the market, and I have to say that Chamilia’s new lineup does not disappoint. I love what I’ve seen so far.

All photos: Chamilia (unless otherwise noted)


The Charm It Bracelet

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Charm It charms first saw the light of day in 2000. The jewelry line is a part of High IntenCity, a family owned company founded by Renee Levy in 1993. Entrepreneurial from a very young age, Renee started designing hair accessories and jewelry already when she was in elementary school and started her first company when she was a high school freshman.

Today, she is the president of High IntenCity, and Charm It has celebrated its 10th anniversary. The jewelry is geared towards young girls, tweens and teens, and the charms are colorful, adorable, and very “girly”. They are all clip-on, so even the youngest wearers are able to easily change charms and move them around as they please.

There are several different collections of charms: The Signature line, which includes a huge variety, from a wedge of cheese to a little pink VW bug with a peace sign; the Disney charms, which obviously consists of Disney characters; the Hello Kitty which features Kitty in a variety of sizes and settings (Beauty Queen, Birthday Cake, Rainbow Kitty, etc.); and the Contest Charms.

What are the Contest Charms? For their 10th anniversary, the company held a contest where girls entered by submitting designs (drawn on paper) that they would like to see made into charms. 36 winners were chosen, and as you can imagine, the collection consists of everything under the sun. Some of my favorites include the “I’m A Taco” (where 10% of the proceeds go to the World Wildlife Fund), the “Be Green Tree” (10% goes to Kids for Saving Earth) and the Cow (also supporting WWF).

All the charms are made from base metal, enamel and resin, and are very affordable – they retail for $5.00 – $6.00.

There are 14 bracelet designs to choose from (ranging in price from $7.00 – $16.00), all made from base metal, some with acrylic and enamel as well. They range from plain chain links to rainbow colored smiley faces, safety pins, frosted cupcakes, and my favorite, the pink flower bracelet. They also have 2 necklaces – one metal colored and one rainbow colored chain, which you can also hang charms from.

And since they’re all clip-on, the charms can go on anything – keychains, bags, zippers, etc. A cute idea is to add one or two to a ribbon around a gift, which both makes it two (three) gifts in one, and really unique gift packaging.

All photos: Charm It