Guilty Pleasure

I’ve found a place in this blog to confess some things about my taste and sometimes my character.  It seems it is time for another one.  While I am not one for a lot of clutter or silly characters, I love garden gnomes.  Just for the record, I loved them before they became cool in that ironic sort of way.  I have a collection of garden gnomes figurines given to me by my dear husband.  And, hear this, I own this collection in a decidedly non-ironic way.   That’s right.  Like somebody’s grandma.  I’m even a garden gnome snob … to be in my collection they have to adhere to illustrator Rien Poortvliet‘s gnome aesthetic (see above).

I must not be alone in my obsession because there is a growing availability of, yes, gnome jewelry.

Here’s a little sampling of what is available by the reliably creative Etsy merchants.

Then, inexplicably, there is this – an interesting enamel gnome charm by Juicy Couture.  I sort of love it.

It does not appear that the charm is available anymore from Juicy but there are a number of them out there on the internet for sale.  The photo here was from Polyvore.

This Post is Not About Jewelry

That’s not exactly true.  This post is a window into my jewelry fixated mind.  I have collected some images of things that, to me, suggest personal adornment (i.e. should be jewelry — but are not).

I realized a long time ago that my mind is always altering what I see around me.  Somewhere in the back of my head, I am always playing with space and scale and imaging how else things might be put together or altered.  I am not saying I do it well — but it happens unbidden all of the time. Often, but not always, that takes the form of imagining how I might wear what I am seeing in the form of, say, a pendant or a bracelet.  It’s just a thing my brain does.

There is something about photographic or scientific equipment that seems so sophisticated in design that it suggests it a sleek, cosmopolitan piece of jewelry. This, for example, I can imagine as the inspiration for a brooch or a pendant.  I suppose, in general, I love clear glass in jewelry.

To some extent, the use of old lenses and pieces-parts of old equipment is covered by the steampunk folks.  I’ll admit to not being the biggest of steampunk fans, although there are some artists out there doing it really well.  To extent that steampunk doesn’t speak to me, that may be because the materials that are often used are put into a context that I find incongruous.  I do understand that that is the whole point.  Conceptually, though, it just hits a wall in my head. The whole distressed, vintage-y thing (the steam in the steampunk) with modern items only goes so far with me.  I suppose I always want to see the modern realized.

I love stripes, polka-dots, and other tight, repetitive patterns.  While all plants seem to be fodder for jewelry designers everywhere — from patterns to actual casts of plant life — there is something about vines and ivy in particular.  I think they speak to me with their closely repeating pattern of leaves.  I find them the perfect inspiration for chains, cuff bracelets, and beaded jewelry.  Nature has a way of creating the perfect rhythm in a pattern — big, small, and just the right amount of variation in space.

I think fire can be strongly evocative of good design.  It has movement and light and interacts with the space around it.  Under good conditions and not destructive ones, it improves the space it is in with warm light.  Good jewelry design, with nicely set stones, can seek to do the same.  It can create movement, catch and reflect light, and make everything more beautiful.

A Piece of the Night Sky

Gemstones are wondrous and varied.  Isn’t it funny that the earth produces these amazing things then we take them, assign them value and, quite frequently, carry them around with us.

Far and away, my favorite stone is lapis lazuli.  I especially love really dark lapis with a lot of pyrite because it resembles the night sky.  Gorgeous lapis has appeared in jewelry across the aesthetic spectrum for much of human history.  Today, jewelry designers, of all stripes, are still inspired by the dark stone, constantly finding new and inventive uses for it.  I don’t know much about the lapidary arts, but it is my understanding that it is a soft stone and, perhaps, that’s why it can be carved with such detail.

Carved Lapis - Chinese Qing Dynasty

Here, are some fine and varied example of what this versatile stone can do in jewelry.

Antique Lapis Brooch - for sale by Adin

This brooch is available on Adin.  Just look at that color.  It sings against the platinum and diamonds.  It just looks like the ancient treasure it is.

Lapis Lazuli Crinkle Earrings - by Mark Kaplan

These lapis stones are paired with stellar metal work by Mark Kaplan and are available through Etsy.  This is actually my favorite cut of lapis — round and flush in its setting.  I have a small pendant made with a piece of lapis just like these and it is among my favorite jewelry possessions.  I found it a bin of small bits and pieces in Chinatown here in San Francisco and paid $5 — but that’s a story for another time.

Unexpected Wild Flower - by Jean-D

Finally, this incredible piece by Jean-D can be found in Etsy store MonBedo.  It has a piece of fine lapis, which, as the description of this item explains, is lapis without any pyrite.  The ring shows how lapis can also capture an organic shape.  The setting is so striking and bold and does the beautiful piece of stone justice.  As an aside, I also happen to really like that Jean-D posted some detailed comments about the design of this piece.  It’s nice to hear from a designer about how a piece came to be.

A Brooch of a Different Color

As I have I mentioned, I think that good jewelry design creates a beautiful item that is worn on the body and that it is not necessarily about it’s interaction with clothing.  Because of that, brooches and pins tend to fall off of my radar — those are things that your clothes wear.  Sometimes, though, a piece is just so well done that it must be mentioned.

This is the Quatre Cinq Silver Brooch by Dorothy Cheng, which is currently posted on Etsy.

Quatre Cinq Silver Brooch - by Dorothy Cheng

Worn by a sweater or worn by a person — Who cares?  It is drop-dead gorgeous.  It strikes the perfect balance of clean design, inspired architectural touches, well-considered scale, and attention to detail that makes a perfect piece.  I can see it with a dress, with a jacket, anything.

Thank you, Dorothy Cheng, for turning my head with a brooch.