Few things are as symbolic of Christmas in American culture as Santa traveling across the dark winter sky in his sleigh pulled by reindeers. He supposedly travels from the North Pole and delivers packages all over the world, although his home base varies depending on where you live: in Denmark, everybody knows he lives on Greenland, in Finland, he calls the mountain Korvatunturi home, and a few years ago, a Swedish company determined that Kyrgyzstan would be the ideal location for him, based on the rotation of the earth and where the majority of people are located.
Although in Sweden, he doesn’t arrive by sleigh at all; he walks, knocks on the door and comes in and hands out gifts in person. And in Holland, Sinterklaas arrives by boat from Spain. Regardless of what you believe, the image of Santa and his sleigh is a compelling one, and for today’s post, I have selected some of my favorite sleigh charms:
Today’s post is a guest post from Evgenia Fraschetti of Amber Regina. I’m very excited to introduce her to you, and so thankful that she took the time out of her very busy schedule (she just became a new Mom!) to share all these interesting amber facts with us. I grew up in the Baltic and my Mom was always wearing amber jewelry, but there is plenty I didn’t know – I learned a lot of new things here. (more…)
Pretty, powder pink rose quartz is THE gemstone when it comes to love, so I thought this would be a good time to feature it, with Valentine’s Day around the corner.
Rose quartz is (obviously) part of the quartz family (which also includes, among others, amethyst, opal, and citrine) and comes in colors ranging from very pale, translucent pink to dark rose. Some have rutile needles which gives the stone an asterism effect, and you can find transparent stones as well, but they are much more rare, and so pale in color that you can hardly tell they’re pink. (more…)
As usual, autumn is zipping by at the speed of light, and it’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is only a week away… Time to get gift lists in order and start shopping!
Trollbeads released their latest holiday collection, and I have to say, it’s one of my favorites to date. There is a little bit of everything – cute, gorgeous, blingy and fun.
The new glass beads include 2 limited edition collections, one in traditional red, white and green and one in a more subdued white, gold and black color scheme. There is also 1 new glass diamond bead, the “ice blue” – acrisp aqua with 13 cubic zirconias, designed by Lise Aagaard.
And these (below) made me smile the first time I saw them: adorable dangle Christmas ornament glass beads – how cute are they?! I could see putting a base bracelet in a gift box and tying one (or more – they are sold both as single charms and in sets of three) of these to the ribbon. Wouldn’t that be a great gift presentation?
Sterling Silver Beads
The new silver beads include the round “winter snow” and “Christmas rose” beads, cute penguin and polar bear beads, both with babies, a bead with a family of seals, the “pebbly” winter berries bead, the (in my opinion) rather oddly shaped Bougainvillea bead (which also comes in a gold version, with diamonds), the softly shaped heart and the adorable Christmas Tree bead (which is assembled in quite a clever way).
They are also introducing their first bangle bracelets, which come in sterling silver in four different sizes, and I know is something many have been waiting for.
A nice new collection, and, as is most often the case with Trollbeads, pretty affordable as well (perhaps with the exception of the gold Bougainvillea bead). Happy shopping!
With holiday travel fast approaching, I thought a post featuring charms that protect travelers would be a timely subject. Travel insurance is all well and good, but with air travel becoming more of a hassle every time, gas prices constantly fluctuating, and fall hurricanes and winter snow storms are on our doorstep, those of us who travel can use all the added protection we can get!
All cultures have their own special way of doing this, and as we saw in the black cat charms post, in certain parts of England, having a black cat on a ship is believed to help keep storms away, and having one in the house is thought to bring fishermen back safely.
Here are a few other charms, amulets and talisman believed to help get you to your destination (and back) without hiccups (read about the protective properties of each below the images):
Runes are characters (often thought to have magical powers) from several different alphabets that were used by Germanic people around the 3rd – 13th centuries. This Nephrite pendant (which also comes in other materials) has a hand carved bind rune (a combination of two or more runes) of Raidho (symbolizing the journey of Life, means of transportation, street smarts, travel, movement) and Elhaz (symbolizing protection, safety). Handmade by Carine of NYC Spellbinder
2. St Christopher
While not formally a saint any more, St Christopher has long been considered a protector of travelers, and is carried by Catholics (and others) all over the world. Vintage silver and enamel St. Christopher charm with a 1940’s sedan on the reverse side. From Eleanor Brown Boutique
3. Traveler’s Prayer
The Traveler’s prayer (Tefilat HaDerech in Hebrew) is a traditional Jewish prayer recited at the beginning of a trip for a safe journey. Black Italian braided leather bracelet with a 14k gold and sterling silver charm inscribed with a part of the prayer. From Most Original Gifts & Jewelry Most Original Gifts & Jewelry
Moonstone, a member of the feldspar group, is associated with much folklore. including attracting passionate love, aid in gardening, balancing emotions, and providing travel protection, especially on water and at night. All useful things to get help with for sure! Vintage (1930s-40s) 14k gold and moonstone pendant from Arnold Jewelers (via Ruby Lane)
Malachite is a green copper carbonate said to help the wearer be comfortable in changing situations, assist with releasing negative experiences, and provide protection from accidents, especially in air travel. Handmade Malachite and sterling silver pendant by Alysha Bushey
Amber, fossilized pine tree sap from millions of years ago, was carried by travelers for protection in ancient times. Today, Amber is more known for clearing negative energy, and anybody who has been at an airport lately knows what a valuable property that can be! Cognac-colored Baltic amber pendant set in 925 sterling silver by Amber Regina
Milagros (“miracles” in Spanish) are small charms that have been used in Spanish folk culture for centuries. They are traditionally used in religious offerings and for healing, but are also carried for protection and good luck. Donkey sterling silver charm. with a turquoise flower on an oxidized chain from Sundance Catalog
8. Kotsu Anzen
The Japanese Kotsu Anzen omamoris are traffic safety charms, amulets that protect travelers from accidents while for example riding a bike, motorcycle or driving. Polyester and rayon Kotsu Anzen from IKI Japan
No, not the fancy brand with the gorgeous orange boxes. This time, we’re talking about the ancient Greek god of of roads and travel. Hermes had a lot on his plate, and among his numerous duties was being the patron god and protector of all travelers. Black onyx amulet engraved with the Star of Hermes by Best Amulets
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: What is it about Denmark and style? There is so much beautiful design in general, and jewelry in particular, coming out of that country (Pandora, Trollbeads, Lovelinks, Ole Lyngaard, Skagen, etc.). One of the newest brands to emerge, and one that I like a lot, is Blossom Copenhagen.
Launched in May of 2011, Blossom Copenhagen features six collections of interchangeable charms and pendants (as well as leather wrist wraps, necklaces and earrings) designed by Christina Lihn, who previously was at Georg Jensen. As I noted in my article about Ole Lyngaard, flexible jewelry seems to be a huge, enduring trend in Danish design, and here we see it again.
The charms and pendants are all created from Christina’s hand drawn sketches, using traditional goldsmith techniques. The designs have an organic, but soft, feel to them, and the marketing materials (and overall look of the brand) has that delicately feminine and nostalgic “French country / shabby chic” look that is so popular in home decor both in Scandinavia.
Falling in love you & I
A recurring theme is hearts – all the collections include at least one heart charm, and Christina herself says “I am a true romantic and I design jewellery for women who love a feminine touch. My favourite symbol is the heart, and that is the focal point of the entire collection”.
I especially like the “Falling in love you & I” – a different and unique take on the heart charm necklace (and the little charms can hold tiny items), and the hot air balloon-inspired pendants in the Romantic Discovery collection.
So far, they are available in Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands and Australia, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they arrive in the US (or at least with an online retailer. I hope I’m right – they’re so pretty, and affordable too. The most expensive piece retails for the equivalent of $130.
I don’t know what it is about the Danes, but for such a small country, they have an extraordinary number of talented, groundbreaking designers in every possible discipline – art, architecture, furniture, clothing, jewelry, you name it. Even their (super cool) Queen Margrethe II is an artist – a painter, illustrator and set designer.
Some of my favorite mid-century modern furniture designers were Danish (Verner Panton, Arne Jacobsen, Bruno Mathsson), some of my current favorite clothing brands are Danish (Noa Noa, Bon’a Parte, Cream), and then there is of course the jewelry: Trollbeads, Pandora, Lovelinks, Georg Jensen, Skagen and Pilgrim are all Danish brands.
But today, the topic is Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen, a jewelry company that was started by its namesake in 1963. After studying and working all over the globe, Ole, a goldsmith, returned to his native Denmark, bought a small workshop and started building the brand. His jewelry was very well received and slowly but surely, the company grew.
1979 was a big year for Ole Lynggaard: he revealed a completely new type of clasp for his jewelry. It was a truly groundbreaking design – not only was it functional, and so pretty that it became an important part of the jewelry rather than just a utilitarian item, but more important was the fact that the clasp could be moved from one piece of jewelry to another, which made it possible for the wearer to create their own look. It was an instant hit, and today, all their jewelry carries (a variation of) this lock.
Interesting how the easy customization concept keeps surfacing again and again in Danish jewelry – just think of Trollbeads, Pandora, Lovelinks, and Georg Jensen’s Fusion collection. Makes sense I suppose, since according to Professor Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, Denmark is an individualistic society (he gives them a score of 74, which places them in the top 10 among individualist countries along with the rest of Scandinavia, the US, UK and the Netherlands). Anyway, I digress.
Ole’s daughter Charlotte inherited her Father’s design talent and at an early age decided to become a fashion designer and worked in PR and fashion in Paris for a few years. Trained as a goldsmith, she eventually discovered however, that her true passion was designing jewelry, and, like her Dad, went on to work with jewelry around the world for several years. In 1992, she returned to Denmark to join her Father’s company. Today, Charlotte (who is regarded as a trend setting style icon in Denmark) is the head designer, and Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen is still a family business – her husband, Michel Norman, is the head of sales, her brother Søren is the managing director, her sister-in-law Hanna also works for the company, and Ole himself is still very much actively designing and crafting jewelry. Their headquarters are located in a cozy old house just north of Copenhagen, where the entire staff of 75 (30 are goldsmiths) is housed.
Princess Mary wearing a Lynggaard charm bracelet
In 2008, Ole Lynggaard was appointed a purveyor to the Danish court, and the company was invited to participate in a tiara exhibit at Amalienborg museum. Their contribution was a design by Charlotte: a breathtaking tiara in rose and white gold and oxidized silver set with diamonds and moonstones (it has since been worn by Princess Mary, who has been spotted wearing many other Lynggaard jewelry pieces as well).
Charms have been part of their collections for many years now and there are also many small pendants that can be used as charms. And the collections for Spring 2012 will add even more charms to their lineup with the release of the “all charms” collection My Little World. The new Dew Drops collection is all pendants and charms; the Katrine collection includes one “sweet spot”; and the Lotus collection has several of the smaller pendants.
So, what are the different charm collections? Well, the ones that have been around for a while are:
The Sweet Drops collection, designed by Charlotte, consists of thick leather bracelets and 93 interchangeable charms, made from 18k yellow, rose and white gold, silver and gemstones. The many different stones come in both faceted and smooth versions, and some are set with a single diamond. The solid precious metal charms come in “plain”, set with 10 or 66 diamonds (white or black), filigree cut with 6 diamonds, and there is an adorable little birdcage charm in gold with a tiny gold bird inside. The collection also includes a few red coral charms, and in line with the whole “flexible jewelry” concept, all the charms can be added to their silk and chain necklaces and link bracelets as well.
Sweet Spots, designed by Charlotte and made from 18k gold, sterling silver and gemstones, are flat rounds (the collection also includes four hearts) designed to be clipped onto the Sweet Drops leather bracelets.
The Spot On collection is essentially Sweet Spots for men. Also designed by Charlotte, it consists of the same type of “disks” that clip onto chunky leather bracelets. The charms are again made from 18k gold, sterling silver and gemstones, but in simpler designs and darker, more “manly” colors (blue and green), and one design also features a dragon.
The My Friend collection was designed by Charlotte and consists of 18k gold and sterling silver charms and pendants in the shape of a penguin and a fish. The jewelry was designed to support Børnefonden (ChildFund Denmark) and a portion of the sales are donated to them.
This very pretty and feminine collection was inspired by a flea market find (a vintage piece of lace) in Paris and consists of rings, (amazing) clasps, earrings, bracelets, pendants and charms in 18k gold and diamonds.
The Spring 2012 Collections
The new charm collections are:
My Little World
The most traditional of their charm bracelets to date, this new collection (designed by Charlotte to represent certain “moments in time” of the company’s history) consists of a chain bracelet and 36 charms in 18k gold, sterling silver, coral and gemstones. And one thing I really like is that when you buy one of these charms, it comes attached to a black string bracelet, so if you prefer that look, there is no need for the added cost of a chain bracelet.
This collection was also designed by Charlotte and is similar to the Sweet Drops. It consists of pendants and charms in 18k gold, sterling silver and gemstones. The design is a little bit different though, and the settings are more ornate and many of the stones are opaque.
The Katrine collection, designed by Ole, consists of earrings, brooches rings, clasps and one sweet spot, all in the shape of butterflies in 18k gold set with lots of tiny diamonds (some have over 150!).
The Lotus is the “flagship” collection in the Spring 2012 release. It was designed by Charlotte, and she has described it as “gypsy style” and “bohemian with a splash of luxury”. The rings, earrings and pendants (large and small) are made from 18k gold, sterling silver and gemstones. It really is a fantastic collection and both the settings and the colors of the gemstones, which almost seem to be glowing, are stunning.
Danish supermodel Helena Christensen is the most recent face of the brand (a position previously held by actress Connie Nielsen and singer Lene Nystrøm), and the new, gorgeous catalog was shot by Marc Høm. Helena’s eyes almost match the gemstones in some of the pictures – amazing.
Ole Lynggaard is a luxury brand, and these designs are not inexpensive – charms range from around $270 (My Friend penguin in sterling silver) to $10,000 (18k gold Sweet Drop with 66 diamonds), Sweet spots are $1,400 to $3,500, and the Lotus drops retail for around $980 to $5,400 (prices are based on current exchange rates and include local taxes). BUT, when you take into account that everything is handmade on site and they only use top notch gemstones, 18k gold, sterling silver and high quality leather, it definitely feels like money well spent. And a good investment – this is jewelry made to last a lifetime (and longer).
Where To Buy
Unfortunately, there are currently no retailers here in the US, and they don’t have an online store. But there are stores all over Europe, as well as in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. And they are constantly expanding, so there is hope. Søren Lynggaard has been quoted as saying “We want to develop the company, but when we do it, we do not want to make compromises, so we´re taking it at our own pace. You don´t want to break your neck by moving too fast. We want a healthy company that we can be proud of!”
In the meantime, I’m going to take my chance to visit one of their stores the next time I’m in Europe. In a way, it’s kind of nice that there still are things you can’t get everywhere in the world.
Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana recently revealed their new fine jewelry collection, and it is stunning. We have seen charms from Dolce & Gabbana many times before, not least in this amazing wool clutch, but nothing quite like this.
The new 80-piece collection is all handmade 18k gold – white, rose and yellow -embellished with rubies, sapphires, black jade and freshwater pearls. The designers say they were inspired by their heritage, and Sicily in particular (one of the lines in the new collection is even called “Sicily”), and wanted to create jewelry that had the look and feel of heirlooms that have been passed down for generations. Italian supermodel Bianca Balti stars in the sultry ad campaign, and the pieces will retail for just under $1,000 to around $25,000.
The collection includes charm bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings, and is indeed loaded with imagery that is classic Italian, both religious and superstitious. There are both gold and handpainted ceramic charms with pictures of the Madonna, bejeweled crosses, charm necklaces that resemble rosaries, as well as hearts, beautiful filigree, and lots of good luck charms such as horseshoes, four leaf clovers, cornicellos, etc.
There was much excitement when it was announced that Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection was going to be sold at Christies, and expectations were high. The auction, held Tuesday, did not disappoint. The total sum for the 80-lot collection came to a record-setting $115,932,000, making it the most valuable privately owned collection of jewelry ever sold at auction.
The most expensive piece ended up being the Cartier-designed necklace “La Peregrina”, a gorgeous pearl, ruby and diamond piece, which went for close to $12 million (Richard Burton bought it for $37,000 in 1957 – talk about a great investment!).
Elizabeth Taylor of course loved jewelry (check out her fabulous book “My Love Affair With Jewelry”) and amassed a great collection during her lifetime, in large part thanks to her generous (and plentiful!) husbands. The collection is just breathtaking – gold, diamonds, pearls, countless other precious stones – and it also included five charm bracelets, for which she collected charms throughout her life, all with special meaning and memories.
The first item sold last night was this gorgeous loaded, and very personal, gold and multi-gem charm bracelet (to the right), which was estimated at around $25,000 and ended up selling for $326,500! It includes charms like a locket with her children’s names inscribed, a directors slate inscribed “The taming of the shrew”, etc.
This charm bracelet (to the left) was estimated at $15,000 sold for $194,500 and has fewer personalized charms, but is obviously spectacular nevertheless. It does include one saying “Happy Anniversary, 1971, Raymond”, but my favorite on this bracelet is the rabbit charm.
And this one (to the right), which is my favorite, has (among other charms) one heart inscribed “Elysabeth, Alexandre, Love Fevrier 1972″, another saying “E.T. Happy Anniversary, 1974, Raymond,” and a locket with two photographs of Elizabeth Taylor’s father. It was estimated at a pretty affordable $4,000 – $6,000, but it also went for $195,400.
This bracelet (left) includes a key charm inscribed “To Elizabeth, with Love, Poker Alice, 1987″ another key with the inscription “Elizabeth” and a sombrero charms with several gemstones and the inscription “Easter 1970, With Lots of love, Raymond”. It was estimated at $12,000 and sold for $158,500.
And last, but not least, this one (right), which includes a charm inscribed “To Elysabeth, Love from Claudye e Gianni”; another with “Just to Remember Palm Springs”, and a Star of David charm with the inscription “Love Sophie” ended up at $116,500
Pretty amazing, and of course people are willing to pay these prices not just for the jewelry, but to be able to own a piece of a legend. But even if you’re not Elizabeth Taylor, it’s worth taking good care of, and holding on to, your charms! You never know what will happen one day.
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):
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.
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!
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 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.
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: