Category Archives: Historical

Rendille Neckpieces

I recently checked out an exquisite book from the library by Dutch photographers Dos and Bertie Winkle, Vanishing Beauty: Indigenous Body Art and Decoration. It’s a compilation of photographs documenting the Winkle’s travels across five continents in an effort to capture the body art and adornment of varying cultures and tribes.

I particularly appreciated the neckpieces of the Rendille tribe of Northern Kenya. The armor-like necklaces, pictured below, were originally made of grass beads, leather, and elephant hair. Now that elephants are no longer plentiful, the pieces incorporate palm fibers instead of hair. Traditionally worn by women, these collars indicate marital status.

I really like the use of pigments, the structure, and the physical dimension of these pieces. I have more horse hair in my studio, and I can’t wait to see how these pieces inspire my upcoming work. For more information about the Rendille, you can click here.

rendille 1rendille 3rendille 2photos: Dos and Bertie Winkle

Baroque Inspirations

As I was looking into the fashion photography of Emma Summerton, I came across a story from Vogue China that’s heavily inspired by baroque styles. The waifish models used in the campaign are dressed in dark garb and heavily adorned, both aspects indicative of the baroque period…

But, there’s a decidedly modern take. Also, the adornment that the model has been styled with feature ornately fashioned gold and pearl elements that just overwhelm the image with opulence. I’ve paired three images from the photo shoot below with original design drawings of baroque jewelry. Enjoy!

Minimal Baroque (Vogue China, 2012) paired with baroque chain designs from L Egare.

Minimal Baroque (Vogue China, 2012) paired with baroque chain designs from L Egare.Minimal Baroque (Vogue China, 2012) paired with a brooch design from 1723 featuring a miniature portrait amidst floral elements.Minimal Baroque (Vogue China, 2012) paired with a brooch design from 1723 featuring a miniature portrait amidst floral elements.Minimal Baroque (Vogue China, 2012) paired with a pendant design by Daniel Mignot. Minimal Baroque (Vogue China, 2012) paired with a pendant design by Daniel Mignot. Also, if someone wants to buy me this necklace, I’d be okay with that!

That Chain So Crazy!

Note: I’ve been working on this blog post for quite a while now, and I’m honestly not sure it’s going to make any sense, so good luck reading!

One of my favorite things about jewelry is it’s role as a communication device which turns the wearer into a billboard expressing the wearers beliefs. Traditionally, jewelry also doubles as a portable asset or an outward display of wealth.
Jewelry in excess is nothing new in the world of hip hop, think back to the iconic images of RUN DMC wearing twisted gold chains, with oversized pendants. Since they first stepped onto the scene in 1984, RUN DMC helped to create an image that has influence generations of musicians after them. It’s been over 25 years since the pioneer of hip hop artists donning opulent gold chains, diamonds, pendants, watches, and other oversized baubles and the jewelry is becoming bigger, brighter, and more expensive.

Today, chains and pendants are becoming so large that they are almost unwearable. Artists are layering them in a melee of gold and glitz. Some things haven’t changed at all, like NAS’s necklace at the right, he could have reached back in time and taken it right off of Jam Master Jay’s neck. But, some things are evolving at a rapid pace. Gone are the days of sporting a stolen Mercedes hood ornament on a chain around your neck as pendants are growing larger and encrusted in colored pave set diamonds.
I have to say that I really do appreciate this hyper-opulence that is being embraced by the hip hop culture. It’s steeped in history (from acknowledging previous hip hop and rap artists to embracing African cultures), and at the same time there is a drastic over-the-top-ness that is so obscene that I can’t do anything but to embrace it. I think that there is a silent understanding that some of these pieces are completely tongue-in-cheek, like the huge dollar sign pendant that Nigo is sporting below… It’s completely a redundant piece (joke?) that is made of money, about money.
I often find myself thinking about menswear jewelry, and what it’s role in society is. The examples in this post are just one facet of that genre.. and such an eye catching, mouth watering facet it is! For more examples of gold, diamonds, and other examples of urban jewelry, be sure to check out one of my new favorite blogs: YOU SEE THAT CHAIN?
Nigo, wearing multiple pave chains and pendants.

Pharrell, Diamond pave pendants and multiple chains.

Lil Wayne, Diamond Grill

Kanye West, Horus Necklace by Ambush

Kanye West, Eye Am Not Alone Ring by Ambush

Soulja Boy, The Work Is Yours Necklace

Soulja Boy


I just came across an amazing designer, Walid Al Damirji, whose pieces interpret vintage fashions while using embroidery, fur, beaded fringe, and lace appliques.

Lately, I’ve been interested in incorporating fur components into my jewelry, and have been using old fur coats and stoles as my source material. I literally chop up vintage pieces of fur in order to have material for the jewelry that I’m making. Walid does the opposite. He doesn’t source the fur into his jewelry, but actually bejewels the fur. The resulting adornments are conglomerations of materials invoking concepts of nostalgia, opulence, and romanticism.
Be sure to check out his designs for CotureLab, which is very much in the same antique revival vein as the images below.


A jewelery collection where the pieces bond two or more people together, to force interaction amongst the participants in a society where we are becoming increasingly void of real human interaction.

This morning I’ve been wasting time skimming the back-logs of some blogs that I like to read… when I came upon the work of Elise Goldin. Elise is a multidisciplinary designer, focusing primarily on creating artifacts and functional objects. She combines a bold aesthetic quality with unique materials to articulate her ideas. Her explorations with process, technique, and material enable her to create contemporary works that require the active involvement of the viewer.

I came across her ‘Knotted Collection,’ and clearly fell in love. She has used the laser cutting process to create smaller knotted links, then these rope like units are strung together to create wearable pieces. Her idea for this series started with the desire to physically bond two people together, therefore creating the more couture pieces pictured below. Eventually this concept evolved into a more wearable series like the chest plate pictured to the right.
I appreciate the graphic quality of her work, the knots reference old ‘how-to’ maritime diagrams. I also appreciate her ability to move beyond the smaller individual units and link the pieces together to create larger pieces that also reference historical pieces of jewelery. By moving the utilitarian into the realm of the decorative she has allowed the viewer to focus on the beauty of the alternative.


While I was in Scotland, I discovered an interesting piece of traditional Scottish jewelry, luckenbooths. A symbol of love and devotion, luckenbooths are brooches that were given as a gift to a bride from the groom on their wedding day, and subsequently pinned to the shawl of their first baby in order to protect it from evil spirits and fairies.

These brooches feature either a heart topped with a crown, or two interlocking hearts with a single crown, thistle, or cross on top. Apparently, the original design for the luckenbooth came into Scotland with the Vikings about 800 AD.

In Celtic lore, the fairies, who were inordinately fond of human milk, often would steal the baby in a household and take its place. A luckenbooth pinned on the baby’s shawl protected the baby from the mischievous fairies.

These pieces have similar symbolism as the Irish Claddaghs, and it seems that the luckenbooths remain one of Scotland’s most romantic artifacts. I really fell in love with this token of devotion which also double as an amulet of protection, and ended up getting a tattoo of one while I was in Edinburgh!

Edinburgh Conquests…

While I was recently in Edinburgh, I visited The Antiquity Shoppe. Although I was on a specific mission to find antique coins to add to my travel bracelet, I ended up finding so many more treasures at The Antiquity Shoppe!

The shop is nestled into a winding road just off the Royal Mile as you head down to Waverly Station. The display window is completely filled with antique jewelry, coins, and silver ware… It reminded me of a candy shop window, with all the tantalizing goodies just begging me to come in and take them home. Once inside you’re overwhelmed by towering stacks of display cases from floor to ceiling. With little elbow room, it takes a cautious buyer to peruse the wares. I came across an antique ring sizer, which I regretfully didn’t purchase, some wonderful watch fobs, lockets, and mourning jewellery.

I did take home with me some pieces that were exceptionally beautiful. As you know, I like padlocks… so I decided to purchase a 1960’s sterling silver heart padlock bracelet. I also purchased a mourning brooch, which appears to be made of dyed horn or possibly gutta percha. The hand is holding a spray of flowers isn’t necessarily a memorial piece, but, the hand links itself to the first stage of mourning in its material. I also purchased a lovely little enameled locket. The gold locket has a floral design enameled on one side, while the other features a tiny portrait of a bride. She was just so beautiful and lonely, I just couldn’t leave her to collect dust.

click on the image for a larger view.

The owner of The Antique Shoppe, Simon Cavanagh, and his mother were both phenomenal people. They were both helpful and knowledgeable. If you are ever in Scotland, this shop is definitely worth a trip to Edinburgh… I will surely be going back!

The Antique Shoppe
49 Cockburn Street
T:0131 226 3391

Travel Bracelet

While my mother was away in England, I found myself wrist-deep in her jewelry box. On my quest for something to borrow, I came upon an old bracelet made out of coins from various countries. It must have been someone’s souvenir travel bracelet.

This is’nt it… This is a picture of my own travel bracelet, which I recently put together from my old leftover coins. The coins are actually quite beautiful, my favorite is the British farthing with the little wren pictured on it. Also, the Mexican cincuenta centavos piece is from 1955 (I had picked it up at a mercado), and shows the legendary eagle with the snake in it’s mouth atop a cactus.

I like the idea that this piece of jewelry has the ability to take me back to different places and times so easily. And, if I ever run out of cash I can just take the bracelet apart and spend the coins!

Love Locks

I just came across an interesting news story about the new phenomena of ‘love locks‘ in Cologne, Germany. Apparently, the officials in Cologne are baffled by the new romantic tendency to padlock ‘love locks‘ on the Hohenzollernbrücke bridge that stretches across the Rhine River.

According to this new custom, couples close the padlock and then toss the key into the Rhine to signify their enduring love. Commemorating the couples’ devotion to each other, there were originally only about 10 padlocks permanently affixed to the bridge, but the number has now grown to the thousands. Some have scratched their initials in the metal locks, while others have gone as far as having them professionally engraved to honor anniversaries, weddings, or other important dates. Apparently, the tradition began in Italy, and has slowly been spreading across the world.

This commemorative act is a very Victorian sentiment, so I found it to be intriguing. I really appreciate the symbolism of jointly sealing a token and relegating the key to the Rhine. The collection has become a physical index of peoples emotions. Aside from the sentimentality of the act, the locks themselves look beautiful on the bridge. I’ve attached a photo below of a collection of heart shaped locks from The Victoria and Albert Museum, which I though were appropriate to accompany this story. If you want to learn more, I came across an interesting wikipedia page that references other communities that have adopted this symbolic gesture.

Images: top and middle: ‘love locks‘ on the Hohenzollernbrücke bridge; bottom: Gold, enamel, and gem set hear shaped padlock clasp pendants, 1855.