But I know what it’s like…. It’s like Tiffany’s…. Not that I give a hoot about jewelry. Diamonds, yes. But it’s tacky to wear diamonds before you’re forty…
~Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1958, spoken by the character Holly Golightly
i think many times women are socialized by movies, books, and even their friends to see diamond jewelery as the pinnacle of perfection. we are all infused by the mythology of tiffany and cartier throughout our lives. but, as with everything else in life, i believe jewelry to be a form of expressive art, and moving off the beaten path sometimes leads to spectacular finds! i am not going to argue that a diamond solitaire or string of pearls are the absoulte in timeless, classic sophistication. but spice up your jewelry box a little bit with some fantastic pieces of wearable art!
i first saw fayrn davis’s resin jewelry at a local neighborhood festival. it was unique, clean, and beautiful. she encapsulated found objects into her necklaces…anything from glass, flower buds, to bird bones and tiny, unhatched eggs. she describes herself as having always been a collector of “small powerful things” and now she passes those things off to her clients to treasure! she also paints tiny pieces of wood with scenes based off pictures she’s taken with a camera and over lays them with resin. i visited her studio/home near my neighborhood to choose a couple necklaces and take a look at her artwork. she was a very friendly person listening to carla bruni sing in fresh as she worked on her tiny treasures. it’s comfortable to wear, and perfect for giving as gifts. i kept the bird flying into the sunset piece, but gave the “still” grass to a friend. whenever i wear it i feel like i have a tiny painting around my neck, a real piece of artwork. and it’s true!
when possible, i love to meet the artists that craft the jewelery that i purchase. it gives me a sense of where the piece came from and what it means. the smaller the production, and the more local, the better!
i absolutely lust for this necklace made out of an authentic athena/owl coin from ancient greece. british tim lambert describes his goal as wanting his jewelry to look like it came from an archaeological dig in ancient rome or greece, and i have to say he’s succeed beautifully. he works in primarily 18 and 24 kt gold, which gives his jewelry an amazing glow and a beautiful color. now tim lives in a little town about an hour away from my city, with his wife, and children. they come to my sunday market to sell their treasures, and also to pass along a little value to their clients. they work out of their home, and do not rent a shop front. they go to a couple markets each week and, because of the quality and beauty of their art, have built up a clientele that return for this classical jewlery. he makes all of his jewelry in the ancient way, without using molds. he uses all recycled gold, and they run a very environmentally sound business. best of all, they will cut you a fantastic deal.
despite having always felt a connection with athena, i doubt the necklace will ever come into a place where it is in my price range! i wonder how much of the cost is associated with the coin itself, but it is a fantastic piece. however, when my wedding set became too big for my ring finger, my husband was able to cut an amazing deal, with the help of tim’s wife, for a small ruby solitaire and eternity band, as an early second year anniversary gift. until we figure out how to get my wedding set sized (the band cannot be sized)–set with the fantastic family “circus diamonds” my husband’s family gave me, i have been wearing my anniversary set on my left hand. while not traditional, it is bright, and colorful. i wasn’t a fan of yellow gold until i saw the true color of gold when it’s karatage is close to pure. it is a brilliant bold color, and brings out the color of the stones set into it.
thomas mann, while not a local to my area, creates beautiful techno-punk jewelry. he has named the range techno-romance, and i think it’s fantastic! the toggle heart box is my favorite piece out of the range, but there are many more wonderful pieces. it speaks to the part of me that always enjoyed science fiction and cute robots. and to the teenager in me that loved punky, gothy clothing and comics. it’s heavy, made out of sterling silver. as a child i loved tiny boxes, and tiny things to put in my tiny boxes. i still have an obsession with pencil boxes, and really, any kind of box for stashing little things. this necklace reminds me of the tiny things i would find and stash in my childhood.
another local artist, kristen ford, makes beautiful jewelry with drop-cut semi-precious stones. she makes her jewelery intentionally in meditation with appreciation for her belief in the healing power of all precious and semi-precious stones. she also designs to create beauty, energy, health, love, and peace. she has an amazing range of pieces, in every color of the rainbow. each sparkles as the little drops catch the light, and dance. i love wearing her pieces which feel natural, but also formal and elegant. i have a necklace by her with blue topaz and a number of blue and bluish green stones, set in yellow gold. delicate, yet substantial, it is perfect for formal occasions, yet still natural and colorful.
not to long ago a colorful shop opened up a little ways away from my home. i didn’t have time to go in, but one day saw a coworker wearing an amazing octopus necklace set with green garnets. i asked her where she got it and she pointed me to the very shop in my neighborhood! when i went it i was breathless with the intricate detail of the design in kimberly baker’s jewelry. my favorite piece is her phoenix necklace. up close the detail is astounding. as you move further away from it, it almost seems like it changes shape or form into a more non-descript flame, which, i find, is perfectly appropriate. i had to get the phoenix in gold, because of what it is, but it is also available in silver. kimberly baker’s jewelry may seem more modern, but a lot of it is based on victorian curiosities and inspired by a collection of antique oddities. all of her jewelry is meaningful, and designed within a specific context. it’s feminine, but with a little edge that makes it different, and bold.
michael michaud’s botanical inspired jewelery is breath-takingly similar to the natural botanicals they are based upon. it could be because he uses leaves and sticks he finds in nature to make the molds for his jewelry. while he makes an amazing range of beautiful jewelry from ginkgo leaves to blueberries, my husband presented me with the pussy willow set, because i love pearls and wear a lot of brown. as a little girl, i use to find the fuzzy tops of pussy willows and save them in my little boxes, so this set was particularly appropriate for me. since they are cast from real pussy willows, i always feel a connection to the natural while wearing them. because of the color, the match nearly all of my clothing. and because they are simple, and not overly ornate, i can wear them more frequently some of his other works. michael michaud is not one of our local vendors, but his artwork captures a lot of what is valued in my city, the mix of the beauty of art, and natural beauty, and artwork that is usable and wearable.
this necklace was one of the first gifts my husband ever got me. not long after, he gave me the matching earrings as well. at the time, i was well aware of christy decker’s silver scrolly jewelry and desired it pretty ardently. while i was particularly lusting after an even more curly necklace of hers, my husband presented me with this necklace, which has turned out to be a much better fit for me. and it was a perfect symbolic gift as well. christy decker describes the purpose of her work at her website:
For the past 18 years she’s combined her love of adornment and art by creating beautiful silver jewelry inspired by her vast experience working as a mehandi henna artist. Christy brings the ancient designs of the Middle East into the present day through her jewelry. Delicate yet strong these flowing floral, leafy and swirling designs symbolize the transformations we encounter through life. A tangible talisman to help us stay strong, keep it simple, and open to what gifts life has to offer.
and so, the necklace is not just another pretty thing to wear, it was crafted with meaning, symbolic of the change in life pathways when we met each other all those years ago.
jewelry is like everything else, how and what you choose can say a lot about who you are. but wearing a great piece of hand-crafted jewelery can make even a boring outfit pop. there are definitely days when i choose my outfit based on a new or favorite piece of jewelery i want to wear, and there are certainly times i wear a piece to match my mood, or even the kind of place i am going to. not to say that tiffany, cartier, or even swarovski are not classics in their own right, but there is something very special about wearing a piece of jewelery that reflects the joy and love an artist put into it. knowing that it is hand-made, and therefore, one of a kind, and supporting someone who is pursuing their dream, pursuing a career that brings them great joy, is such a different feeling from buying a mass produced, albeit, quality, piece. because all the thousand details and joys the artist experiences in crafting is meant to be passed on to the client. wearing the physical representation of someone pursuing their dream brings me joy. when i’ve met and spoken with an artist, i can understand, so much better, what the piece represents, and at it means it its creator, and that is a truely special exprience. and, of course, the pleasure that comes from a beautiful collection of unique jewelry!
what is your favorite kind of “usable art”? what is your favorite piece of jewelery?
you can check out the artists who made my favorite pieces of jewelery here: