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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!”
According to Rembrandt, their collection is the world’s largest, with over 16,000 traditional charms. There is indeed a huge variety of designs to choose from, and one thing that sets them apart from other brands is that each and every one is available in 5 different metals: sterling silver, gold plated silver, 14k white gold, 10 and 14k yellow gold. The same is true for the bracelets, which come in 7, 8 or 9” lengths (some only in 7 and 8”) with box, lobster or spring ring clasps.
All their charms are hand-made using an ancient technique called “cire perdue” (lost wax casting). A mold is made with the help of wax and plaster, and the charm is created by pouring liquid metal into the mold and allowed to sit and harden. When the charm is ready, it is removed from the mold and hand-finished and polished.
Rembrandt’s prices fluctuate according to market price for each metal, and also vary between the metals for each bracelet and charm. As you would guess, the silver items are the most affordable; as an example, the adorable filigree heart charm (one of my favorites) is around $34 in silver and $579 in 14k gold (at the time of writing).
Here are two bracelets I recently put together, one is all silver, the other all 14k gold. The silver version ended up at $311 and the gold at $4,926.
All photos: Rembrandt charms
There is a lot of flexibility with these charms – you have a choice between a jump ring attachment or a lobster clasp (Thomas Sabo charm style); you can get them engraved; the photoart collection charms can be personalized with your own photos; and most charm designs are also available as earrings, brooches, a variety of pins, cuff links, and charm holders.
The charm holders are essentially thin rings with a design up top and a bail. You can open the ring and slide charms onto it, and then attach it (using the bail) to a chain (or any material you want) for an instant charm necklace.
They also have “Charmdrops” – round bead-type charms with a little loop on the bottom, which fits on European-type bracelets – so you can add your favorite Rembrandt charm to your Pandora bracelet (for example).
How do you know it’s an authentic Rembrandt charm? Look for their trademark “RQC” (followed by the metal code) on either the bottom or back of the charm, and/or on the jump ring. And as always, buy from an authorized dealer.
Jewelry today comes in an astonishing amount of different materials, and if you’re collecting, one way to narrow that collection down is to focus on pieces made from a particular metal or stone, etc. And even if you’re not a collector, it’s good to know what to look for when you’re out shopping. If you’re shopping for vintage gold charms at a flea market, auction, estate sale or antique show, you’ll be more likely to go home with a real find if you know the telltale signs of a true gem.
Today, we’ll delve deeper into the world of gold. It is the oldest precious metal we know of, and was probably the first metal humans ever used. Experts say that it was discovered thousands of years ago, and it is even mentioned in the Bible. Why would a pre-historic men and women pay any attention to gold in the first place? Well, it glitters and catches your attention, and people were as drawn to “pretty things” back then as we are now. It is also a very malleable metal, so even without today’s sophisticated tools, people were able to form it into ornaments and other shapes.
Gold jewelry is certainly nothing new either: at the Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria, excavators found over 3,000 pieces, dating from 4600 – 4200 BC. And in Peru, a gold necklace estimated to be almost 4,000 years old was discovered at a burial site close to Lake Titicaca.
But, as Shakespeare said, all that glitters (glisters) is not gold. At least not pure gold. The only pure gold is 24 karat, and it’s an orangey yellow. Anything below 24, and in any other color, is a mix of gold and other metals. The color of the final product depends on what other metal(s) it is mixed with – if you add copper, you get red or rose gold, and if you add silver, zinc, or other white metals, you get a paler gold.
For example, a 22 karat piece has 91.6% gold and 8.4% other metals. 18 karat contains 75% gold and 25% other metals, and so forth. But this “dilution” of pure gold is not all bad – when you add another metal to gold (“alloying”), it helps make the piece stronger and harder. 24k gold is much softer than 18k.
Pure gold is 24 karats, and have a bright orange-yellow color which can be polished to a mirror-like shine. Highly valued all over the world and used as a trading commodity, it is so soft and pliable that it is usually not used for jewelry in its pure form (you can find 24k pieces, just know that because of their softness, they’re more likely to get damaged). Most often, the gold is mixed with another metal (copper and/or silver), creating 22, 18, 14, 10 etc. karats. The jewelry will still be yellow, and sturdier.
White gold can be any karat (not 24, but 21, 18, 14, 9, etc.) and is a blend of gold and other white metals, like silver, nickel or palladium. It became popular in the 1920s as a more affordable alternative to platinum, which was very fashionable at the time.
In the US, nickel is the most common white gold alloy, but for those who suffer from nickel allergies (dermatitis is a common reaction) it is good to know that it is no longer allowed in jewelry in the EU, where the more expensive palladium is used instead. You can find white gold without nickel in the US as well, you just have to know to ask for it. Remember though, that if you buy vintage white gold pieces, they will most likely contain nickel, regardless of origin.
Most white gold today is coated with rhodium, a member of the platinum family, which makes the gold look even whiter and gives it a mirror-like shine. It also provides a bit of protection from any eventual nickel, but does tend to wear off after a few years.
Rose, Red and Pink Gold
Rose gold was “invented” in England the 1500s and used for coins, but the first “famous” pink gold jewelry piece was Cartier’s Trinity ring, which was introduced in the 1920s. Reddish shades of gold are created by mixing pure gold with copper (which is red) and silver. 22k rose gold usually consists of 91.6% gold and 8.4% copper. A 14k red gold piece has 58.5% gold, 32.5% copper and 9.0% silver.
Green gold, which is really more of a yellow gold with a green tint to it, is created by mixing pure gold and silver (18k green gold contains 75% gold and 25% silver). There is actually a naturally occurring silver/gold alloy called Electrum, which was used for coins and jewelry as far back as the Bronze Age, but it is not used for jewelry today.
Purple & Blue Gold
Purple gold (a.k.a. amethyst or violet gold) is an intermetallic compound of gold and aluminum. The blend creates 18k pieces in a nice purple color, but unfortunately it tends to be too brittle to use for jewelry and is more often used as an accent. There are other ways to create purple gold that is less fragile, but you lose some of the purple color in the process. Blue gold is also an intermetallic compound of gold and indium and shares many of the other characteristics of purple gold.
Black gold can be created several different ways, which produce final pieces that range in color from brown and grey to jet black.
Whew, that was a lot of information! So what should you look for when buying a gold charm? You want to find the stamp or marking, which tells you the quality of the gold. This will, by law, be on all gold jewelry sold in the US, regardless of color (remember, all colored gold contains a certain percentage of yellow gold).
In the US, you will most often find the karat (or carat) number, stamped as 14k (or ct), 18k, etc. 10k is the lowest karat allowed to be sold as gold in the US, but in other countries you can find 9k (minimum in the UK) and 8k (minimum in Germany). Note that older gold jewelry in the US can be 9k, but it won’t have a stamp.
In Europe, the stamp tells you the percentage of gold. .916 means 91.6% gold (i.e. 22k), .750 is 75% (i.e. 18k), .585 is 58.5% (14k), .417 is 41.7% (10k), .375 is 37.5% (9k) and .333 is 33.3% (8k).
In Portugal, the standard is 800 – 80% gold (19.2k), and in the Middle East, it’s 875 (87.5% gold, 21k).
Occasionally, you can find other numbers as well, such as 625, which is 62.5% gold (15k). This karat was discontinued around 1935, so if you see that, you’ll know it’s an older piece.
If you see any of the following abbreviations, the piece is not solid gold:
GF (gold filled), GP or RGP (gold plated), GEP (gold electroplated), HGE, EG, HG (heavy gold electroplated)
And if you see any of the following numbers: .800, .835, .900 or .925, you’re looking at a piece of silver (read more on that in my silver charm bracelet post)
I hope this information is helpful when you head out on your hunt for gold charms. Happy shopping!