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:
In honor of March being Adopt a Guinea Pig Month, I thought we’d do a post featuring Guinea Pig charms and pendants. I love guinea pigs, they are so adorable, friendly and personable. It’s so cute how they start “talking” to you (more like squeaky happy little guinea pig sounds) as soon as you walk into the room, and how they sometimes jump straight up in the air (“popcorning”) when they are excited or happy.
Guinea Pigs, whose scientific name is Cavia porcellus, (they are often called Cavies) originated in South America where they were domesticated around 5000 BC already (although not so much for their cuteness but as a food source). The Peruvian Moche people worshipped them and often depicted them in their art, and statues of Guinea Pigs dating back to 500 BC to 500 AD have been found in both Peru and Ecuador.
They made their way to Europe in the 1500s where they became popular pets (Queen Elizabeth 1 of England was very fond of them). Today, they are popular all over the world, and it is estimated that there are around 3.5 million guinea pigs kept as pets in the US.
Unfortunately, many of those pets end up in shelters for a variety of reasons – changing family and living situations, unplanned guinea pig babies, lack of time, failure to understand the extent of the commitment of owning a pet before getting one, etc. It is such a shame, because guinea pigs really are wonderful pets, quite low-maintenance, and so much fun.
Typical guinea pig life expectancy is around five to seven years (although they can live longer) and they are very social animals (they live in large herds in the wild), so if you consider adopting, please don’t get just one, your cavy needs a friend.
They will need a large cage with a solid floor to live in, toys to play with and a house to hide in, bedding to sleep on, and lots of time to exercise outside of the cage. Their diet should consist of lots of top quality hay, pellets (especially made for guinea pigs) and a variety of vegetables, especially those that contain a lot of vitamin C – guinea pigs do not produce vitamin C on their own, but they need it for their survival. The ASPCA has lots of great information about caring for guinea pigs, and a downloadable pdf with care tips.
If you are interested in adopting (or fostering) guinea pigs, contact your local shelter or go to Petfinder.com and type in your zip code to search for available pets in your area.
Collage by Charms Guide
1. Sterling silver necklace with a tiny handmade guinea pig charm by California artist Sue of Lulu Bug Jewelry
In the modern tradition, the birthstone for March is the gorgeous Aquamarine (in the mystical tradition it’s Jade and in all others Bloodstone – more on those in separate posts).
Morganite, Aquamarine and Heliodor
Aquamarine is a member of the Beryl family, which also includes Emeralds (green), Morganite (pink – purple), Heliodor (yellow), Goshenite (Clear) and Bixbite (red, very rare). Pure beryl has no color – these stones get their different hues from impurities, and in the case of Aquamarine it comes from iron. The stones are also almost always heat treated which enhances the blue color by removing some of the green and/or yellow that may be present.
The word Aquamarine comes from the Latin aqua (water) and mare (sea) and it certainly is an apt description of the colors of these stones, which range from a pale light blue to deep greenish hues. They are fairly abundant and are mainly mined in Brazil, but also in Madagascar, India, Nigeria, Russia, China and the US.
The stones can come in huge sizes and it is not unusual to see large cut aquamarines of 40 – 50ct. Aquamarines can be quite affordable, but the price of course depends on size and quality. Greenish-blue ones with lots of inclusions are at the lowest end of the price scale, while clear (no inclusions), intensely sky and dark blue stones usually fetch the highest prices. Having said that, beryl sometimes have inclusions that produce rare asterism (star) and cat’s eye effects, and aquamarines with either of those can be quite costly.
Aquamarine Healing Properties
Aquamarines are said to protect seafarers, enhance communication, help you stick to your goals in life, become less self-centered, alleviate depression and anxiety, calm fears, promote tranquility and a light heart and boost creativity and intuition. Holding an aquamarine while meditating helps you focus and go deeper into the meditation. It is also believed to help with the immune system (allergies), the thymus gland, spleen, heart, throat, lymph nodes, eye inflammation, arthritis, and varicose veins.
In addition to being the birthstone of March, it is the planetary stone for Pisces, the state gem for Colorado, the birthstone for October in the Roman, Hebrew and Arabic tradition, and the 19th wedding anniversary stone.
I love aquamarine and always carry a small rondelle with me when I’m not wearing aquamarine jewelry – I find it calms and centers me, especially when I hold it in my hand. Give it try yourself and see what you experience.
As usual, I have selected a few favorite aquamarine charms and pendants:
Collage by Charms Guide
1. Handmade sterling silver and aquamarine necklace pendant by Colorado-based artist Nancy Green
2. Sterling silver Donatella flower charm with an aquamarine dangle. From Macy’s
3. Handmade sterling silver and aquamarine Tree of Life pendant by Florida-based artist Miss M. Turner of Phoenix Fire Designs
4. Vintage 14k gold bracelet with amethysts and aquamarines from Ross-Simons
5. Handmade silver and aquamarine owl charm by British silversmith and artist Caroline of Little Bird Studio 22
6. 14k white gold necklace with an aquamarine and diamond flower pendant from Angara
7. Copper, tin and brass Hamsa hand talisman with aquamarine, glass and Swarovski Crystals. From AmuletGifts.com
8. 14k gold and aquamarine bead charm from Pandora
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:
Links of London is a jewelry company based in the UK (as one would assume from the name). The company got started on what can best be described as a whim: in 1990, founder Annoushka Ducas designed some fish-shaped cuff links to be given as Christmas presents to the top customers of her Mothers’ fish business. After the holidays, she still had a number of them left, so she went into the luxury London department store Harvey Nichols and asked if they would be interested in selling them. They said yes, but only if she designed an entire collection, and Links of London was born.
Ducas started the company together with her husband John Ayton in 1991, and it became a huge success and recipient of many awards. In 2006, the couple sold Links of London for £50 million to Greek jewelry company Folli Follie, and in 2009, Annoushka Ducas started a new jewelry business – “Annoushka”.
Links of London continues its success story: their products can now be found in over 300 stores across the globe as well as online; the company was recently asked to create the official London Olympics 2012 jewelry line; and their pieces are worn by many celebrities, including Kate Middleton (or the Duchess of Cambridge as she is known these days) who wore their “Hope” white topaz earrings in the official engagement photos.
Two new collections are released each year, and there are currently 10 different lines of jewelry (each with a very distinct look), in addition to watches, a bridal collection and various gifts (frames, bags, bag charms, etc.):
The Links of London Jewelry Collections
The Sweetie line consists mostly of bracelets (but there are also a few necklaces, earrings, ringsand a watch) and the signature look here is rings stacked to form a bracelet or as part of one.
As you would assume, this line consists of friendship bracelets, made from sterling silver and threads in various colors. There are single and double-wrap versions, most have silver “pins”, some have other silver designs like hearts, strawberries, and a tad startling, skulls. One really fun one that caught my attention is the Wimbledon Tennis Ball Friendship bracelet, which is made from tiny silver tennis balls woven together by thread in that neon yellow-greenish color of tennis balls.
This collection is made up of silver and gold “bubbles” and includes some really substantial bracelets, a few friendship ‘bubble bracelets” (my favorites), rings, earrings and necklaces.
The 20/20 line consists of interlocking rings in various designs and sizes.
The Hope collection is designed to emulate stone shapes and includes earrings, rings, pendants, a charm, and bracelets.
Camden is all about skulls – woven into bracelets, as pendants, charms and cufflinks.
The signature collection is one of the most understated and consists of charms, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and a ring in shiny silver with moonstones in gorgeous shades of orange and grey.
Another discreet collection, this one inspired by bamboo. It’s all sterling silver and includes necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings.
Love note features hearts, hearts and more hearts in white, yellow and rose gold, and the charms have amethysts and amazonites.
The 2012 collection features the Olympics jewelry – charms, bracelets, necklaces, cufflinks, key rings, earrings, charm beads, rings and more – most celebrating Britain and/or sports in some way.
A new line of friendship bracelets called “Feed” was recently launched. The bracelets are made from different colored cords with a single sterling silver bead in various shapes (water drop, dove, heart, etc.), each supporting a different hunger-fighting program through the FEED foundation. And if you happen to be in London, you can get your hands on one design with an 18k gold heart that is sold only at Harrods and supports food for kids in high HIV/AIDS areas.
Links of London for Men
As you would expect from a company that got started thanks to a pair of cufflinks, the men’s jewelry include a quite extensive cufflink collection in fun, unusual and manly designs such as skulls, moustaches, barbells, etc. The moustache cufflinks were created specifically for “Movember” – a yearly worldwide charity event that help raise money for research specific to men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, etc. – and 10% of the sales proceeds are donated to Movember.
The Men’s collection also include several friendship bracelets, rings, necklaces, watches and accessories (wallets, collar bones, etc.).
Links of London for Kids
There is also a line for kids, which includes jewelry (sterling silver charm bracelets sized for babies and young children), gift items (keepsake boxes, etc.), and these darling little miniature animal couples, each with the most adorable names: Harry and Helena Hedgehog, Percy and Patricia Pig, Orlando and Olivia Ostrich, etc. Too cute!
Links of London Charms
And last, but not least, there is of course their extensive collection of charms – which currently consists of around 350 designs. The charms are made from sterling silver and 18k gold, many are enameled, some have precious stones (diamonds, topaz, sapphires, etc.) and the designs range from cheeky to chic.