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Worn On the Bayou: Styles, Sights, and Songs from the Northern Gulf Coast

“Wish I was back on the bayou

Rollin’ with some Cajun Queen

Wishin’ I were a fast freight train

Just a chooglin’ on down to New Orleans” 

- Creedence Clearwater Revival

It had been fourteen years since I had flown into New Orleans. Don’t misread that… I have been to The Big Easy several times in the last decade and, sure, maybe once or twice I experienced a hangover there or possibly got myself into a little trouble because I kidnapped Tulane’s mascot (and still have him), but I’d driven from Atlanta on each of those trips, so flying high over grand Lake Pontchartrain brought back memories from my twenties that I had long since moved to the back of my overly-crowded, sazerac-infused brain. For this experience, I’d be travelling alone. No husband to show me where he used to buy groceries during his four-year stint as a NOLA resident during college. No kids to drag against their will through shops in The Quarter or the Magazine District. It was just my map, my agenda, and me, and hopefully maybe even a bit of something we call lagniappe. But before I get to my experience in The Crescent City, let me share with you what else was happenin’ ‘round the other parts…

Antique brooches at Claude Moore in Mobile, AL

Antique brooches at Claude Moore in Mobile, AL

The Northern Gulf Coast has its own way of thinking, and not all of it is how New Orleans folks think. Things are big there, sort of in a Texas-type way. Personalities are big. Politics are big. Food is big. Waist lines are… well, you get the point. But thankfully I found that jewels and gems are big as well. And while in Mobile, Alabama, where I visited the wonderful Claude Moore Jeweler, I was elated to see that heirloom jewelry was getting even bigger. These four gorgeous pins were just part of a collection of antique pieces carried by Claude Moore, and while what’s happening in fashion jewelry up North hasn’t quite found its way to the South yet, owner Howard Moore was optimistic that the tide is changing, and that Mobile was ready to embrace the next wave. I, for one, am a big fan of Mobile, so it’s nice to see the changes they’re embracing there. Little known fact about the city: Mobile, like New Orleans, was originally settled by the French in 1702. The city has flown six flags since its existence: French, Spanish, British, Republic of Alabama, Confederate, and of course, the United States. Because of this there’s a diversity there unlike most other larger cities in Alabama, which is a draw – and the fact that the Mobile River Delta has an incredible variety of fish and sea life – bringing in more hipster-run restaurants, a younger population, and dare I say… a newer, fresher, jewelry and fashion scene. Good on ya, Alabama. Oh, and um… Roll Tide ((ducks)).

Gulf Coast area jewelers

Gulf Coast area jewelers

After several hours visiting folks in the Mobile area, I decided I’d spend my first night at a hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi. My fifteen-year-old soul was hoping to run into circa-1988 Matthew Broderick there, but sadly, that was not the case. My short time in Biloxi was less than stellar as I was likely dressed a little too “fancy” for the hotel/casino guests there, making for some awkward conversation and unfortunate visuals that will long be burned into the back of my oculi. I’m sure there are several lovely parts of Biloxi, but where I was staying was far from being one of them. (**SOAPBOX ALERT**) How any city can still allow smoking in restaurants – and I mean, what their version of “high-end” restaurants is – is beyond me. No, I would not like a side of nicotine with my Crawfish pasta, sir. I think I’ll pass on the tobacco-encrusted salmon, thanks. Mmmmmm… smell that? It’s as if Marlboro is now raising its own livestock. I mean, I get that this is a “free country” and all and that the South – above anywhere else in this land – LOVES them some G*d-given freedom, but when it comes to destroying the clothing, hair, lungs, and even the most mediocre meal of the people around you, I say, SURE… you can have your freedom… but you must take it in a tiny little room, far, far away from where I’m trying to eat my overcooked asparagus. (Editor’s note: YES, BILOXI… IT’S CALLED ASPARAGUS. IT’S GREEN. NO NEED TO FRY IT. YOU SHOULD TRY IT SOME TIME. AND NO, YOU CAN’T SMOKE IT. **END OF RANT**.)

The *new* Aucoin Hart Jewelers in Metairie

The *new* Aucoin Hart Jewelers in Metairie

Thankfully the following morning would bring me back to the New Orleans area where there was no shortage of smoke-free restaurants, ladies in Lulu Lemon, and elegant jewelry stores just waiting to be visited. Some of the biggest names in the biz are in this region – namely, in a city just northwest of N’awlins called Metairie. The Lakeside Mall alone houses two major players when it comes to selling watches and jewelry: Lee Michaels, which has eight locations throughout Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi and carries brands like Marco Bicego, Henry Daussi, and Mikimoto. Also, there is Adlers Jewelry, which has three other locations in Louisiana and is a premier seller of Patek Philippe watches. It was wonderful to be able to visit these and the other beautiful boutiques that make Metairie a jewelry-buyers mecca, but there was still one location I was familiar with but had never visited…

Aucoin Hart.

Aucoin Hart's own brand of "Fleur-de-Lis" jewelry

Aucoin Hart’s own brand of “Fleur-de-Lis” jewelry

Many, many years ago, when I worked in the customer service department at Lagos’ Philadelphia factory and design center, the South, the West, and TOLA were my regions. I always remember the folks from Aucoin Hart being super friendly when they’d call for special orders, and meeting them finally in person didn’t change my feelings one bit. The store itself, which has been recently renovated, is a masterpiece in retail design and architecture. The staff is genuinely friendly and knowledgeable, but even more importantly, they’re passionate. I know many people from New Orleans and have a few friends who still live in the city, and “Passion” is the one thing they really pride themselves on. From the way they cheer on their beloved Saints, to the way they cook their unique style of cuisine, to the way they rebuilt themselves post Hurricane Katrina, it’s the passion of the people who reside in the area that carries them through and eventually, puts them right back on top. The folks at Aucoin Hart are passionate about the new store design, passionate about their customers, and passionate both about the brands they carry, and those they create themselves. And when I needed a recommendation for a restaurant in the area, you can bet that every staff member there was passionate about where they wanted to send me. In the end, largely thanks to one salesman’s more-than-convincing argument, I decided on chef John Besh’s French/German/Creole eatery… Luke.

Crawfish, the Quarter, and sunsets on the Gulf

Crawfish, the Quarter, and sunsets on the Gulf

Food is to New Orleans what beer is to Brussels, wine is to Paris, and coffee is to Seattle. New Orleans isn’t just the party city any longer. It’s been “born again” and this second chance at life has made it an even greater powerhouse for dishing out some of the finest cuisine in the world. Does it still have po-boy shops, muffaletta houses, and crawfish boils? Damn straight. But chefs like Adolpho Garcia, Donald Link, John Besh, Sue Zemanick, and yes… even Emeril Lagasse (still) (BAM!) are changing the New Orleans fine dining scene almost daily. (And, no. You didn’t visit a food blogger’s website and a bunch of info on jewelry stores broke out. You’re still at the right place, but I’d be stupid not to mention something about regional eats in this post.)

Before this entry is over I think it only right to talk about one of my all-time favorite jewelry and housewares designers who just happens to call New Orleans home… Mignon Faget.

Having been born and raised in New Orleans, Mignon Faget allows the wearers of her work to explore the mysteriousness of Louisiana through her designs. Her first ever collection, called “Sea,” transformed gemstones and jewels found on the Gulf Coast into wearables that epitomized what it was like to be from the area. Her “Ironworks” collection takes snippets of Marcellino Hernandez’s renowned forgings from the historic Vieux Carré and makes them into beautiful baubles of wearable architecture. But it doesn’t stop with jewelry. Her “Home” collection features glassware and table settings using the classic fleur-de-lis design, as well as apis-inspired aprons and stemware from her “Hive” collection (a personal favorite for obvious reasons).

It was a brief, interesting, but enjoyable visit to the area, and I’m looking forward to getting back there again in the very near future. Until that day comes, however, I’ll leave you all with a little Louis Armstrong:

“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

And miss it each night and day

I know I’m not wrong this feeling’s gettin’ stronger

The longer, I stay away

Miss them moss covered vines,

the tall sugar pines Where mockin’ birds used to sing

And I’d like to see that lazy Mississippi

hurryin’ into spring…”

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Uncategorized

Calling Bullsh*t on “Subjective Grading”: My Experience with the Different Labs

rd plotIt seems that everyone is expressing their opinions on the recent Rapnet ban of all EGL certified diamonds, so I thought it was the right time to share my own personal experience – or at least, one of them – as it pertains to the differences in labs and how they grade.

Once upon a time, in a faraway part of my existence, I ordered an EGL certified diamond from a dealer in the U.S. that sold them incredibly cheaply. To my dismay, when I received the stone (graded by this particular lab as an “H” color) I noticed that the diamond was far too yellow for my liking, and that I would have never been able to sell it to my customer as such. Upon closer inspection, I saw what I thought was a laser inscription on the girdle. And I was right. It definitely was. The only problem is, it was an inscription by a different lab…

The GIA.

Thanks to the technological progress in our industry, I looked up the GIA inscription on their website. The letter I saw as the color grade gave me goose bumps. It borderline made me nauseated. This stone had been double graded and was selling for a higher price with the EGL grade than it was at the lower GIA grade. I felt my ears get hot and almost immediately picked up the phone to give the dealer a piece of my mind. This wasn’t one color-grade off. This wasn’t two color grades off. It was a fistful… Five. FIVE! There was a five-grade difference between this diamond certified by one of the Hong Kong labs of EGL International and by the Carlsbad lab of the GIA. Five. EGL’s “H “was GIA’s “M,” and the only answer I received from the person on the other end of the line, was this…

“Diamond grading is subjective. It states it right there on the cert.”

Pardon my language here, but I called bullshit. This was an abuse of the term “subjective.” Would you accept a car salesman telling you that the car you were buying from a dealership had four tires when you could blatantly see that it only had three? What if he said that since he was the *expert,* it was his opinion that was the correct one? Would you be infuriated? I would. I was. And at the time of the incident I tried to do something about it, but at the time, I really couldn’t get anyone to listen. And I mean that. NO ONE.

I made calls. I wrote emails. I did research on the overseas lab in question and even sent a fax (a fax!) when I couldn’t reach anyone there by email or telephone. What I got in return was silence. And when I went to one of the major databases listing this wholesaler’s diamonds and explained the situation, my complaint was met with the following response: “Yes, you’re not the first to come forward. We are currently investigating this as it is an issue.”

That was a long, long time ago. Nothing happened then, or shortly afterward, or in the years that followed. But, as we all know, something is happening now. And while, in my opinion, something should have been done prior to any lawsuits bringing attention to the matter, I’m happy to witness the industry step up and see to it that something of impact is done, today.

My advice to the EGL International is this: Create your own grading system. Use numbers for color. Use different abbreviations for clarity. Don’t use the GIA scale if you’re not using GIA grading standards. My advice for EGL-USA: stop calling yourselves the EGL-USA if you want to be able to be listed on diamond trading networks. Separate yourselves. Break free completely. There’s a stigma, now, and you seriously may want to think this thing through. My advice to all diamond dealers: send your stones to reputable labs. Know that this is only the beginning, and if you continue to have diamonds double-graded, it’s going to come back to you and hit you where it hurts. The spotlight is on you, and it’s on you right now. And my advice to jewelry retailers: cheap isn’t always better. Educate your customer, your staff, and yourself. Choose the right wholesalers, because in the end, it’s your name, and your reputation, that’s on the line.

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Uncategorized

“We’re Being Attacked”: A Jewelry Person’s Recount of the Events of 9/11

We all have our stories for this day, don’t we? We have our own distinct memories of where we were, what we were doing, and the people we were doing it with. Our parents and their older friends could tell you it was the same when President Kennedy was killed. Some of us could tell you it was the same when the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded in front of millions of television viewers, while the world looked on. But this… this was so much different. This one event changed humans in the long term. Yet here we are, thirteen-years later, recalling our pain as if it were yesterday. And we still have pain. We didn’t need to lose someone in the towers to have pain, either. On this day, thirteen years ago, we were all Catherine Gorayeb’s daughter. We were all Suria Clarke’s dad. And we were all Todd Beamer’s wife. We cried on their shoulders, held their hands, wiped their tears, and prayed to our God. We stood united with them and we stand united today, even if for just today, as a nation of consolers.

This is one jewelry person’s memory of the events of September 11th. This is my memory, and my story, and how my life was changed because of it.

***********

8:55 a.m.

((RRRRrrrrrring))

Co-worker Don (picking up wall phone): “A&K Manufacturers. Oh, hey hon. (silence for about thirty seconds)… You’re shitting me. Oh my God. Okay. Call me back if they say anything else.”

Me (to Don): “What’s up?”

Co-worker Don: “That was my wife. She said apparently a plane crashed into one of the WTC towers. She said it’s all over the news. The whole top is on fire.”

Me: “Oh my God, that’s horrible! Wow. Wait, a plane or a jet?”

Co-worker Don: “She said a plane. Probably a small private plane or something. I’m sure accidental.”

Me: “I can believe that. You know, the same thing happened in the forties to the Empire State building. A B-25 bomber, I think. Guy accidentally flew it into the building because he couldn’t see. I mean, you’d think now the air traffic control would be better, though… right?”

Co-worker Don: “Why are you as young as you are and you’d know something like that?”

Me: “I’m a nerd.”

Co-worker Don: “No argument here.”

 

9:05 a.m.

((RRRRrrrring))

Co-worker Don (picking up phone again): “A&K. (silence for ten seconds) you’re fucking kidding me! OH MY GOD. YOU’RE KIDDING ME! (Now pulling the phone away from his ear to address my boss and me)… She said she just watched a big jet fly into the second tower. Just now. ON TELEVISION!”

Me: (speechless, frozen, and completely in shock): “That’s no accident. We’re being attacked.”

 ***********

Sansom Street is the main strip in Philadelphia’s jewelry district and I worked in a place dead smack in the center of it. But Sansom Street was also in the heart of the city’s historical district. Independence Hall was a block east. The Liberty Bell was only feet away. The birthplace of our nation was in my peripheral vision and my mind started racing as to what would be attacked next.

Not even an hour later this is what else we knew: The Pentagon had been crashed into and the South Tower (the second of the two to be hit) had completely imploded, killing all inside.

This… this is war.” I thought to myself as I tried to continue working while listening to the radio for any updates we honestly were fearful of getting. We didn’t have smart phones yet. And cell signals were so overloaded that radio, of all things, was the only way we could keep up to date. My then husband (and now ex-husband) came crashing through the doors of our jewelry shop shortly after ten, sweaty and covered in paint, with a familiar angry look on his face. “Why are you still here? Why are they keeping you here? You’re in center city and there are still missing planes. I’m taking you home right now.”

But I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I knew that everyone was leaving Center City. Everybody, even my mother who worked at a bakery just ten blocks from where I was had packed up their stuff once the second tower had been hit. But my bosses were older Armenian men and they weren’t afraid of Philly being a target, and so they kept the shop open, and there is where I stayed until finally, around 2:00, they realized no one was left on the street to come in.

I didn’t know where to go. I was afraid of going home and sitting in front of my television and watching what I had only been hearing up to that point. Death affects me. Brutal deaths, however, well, they haunt me. I’ve never been a person who can watch a video of someone dying. I even turn away at the exact point on the Zapruder film when the bullet reaches Kennedy’s head. I feel like I’m violating the rights of the now deceased to watch on television how they died. It seems too personal to be broadcast for audiences of people. And I wasn’t quite ready to see the devastation for myself. Not right then. Not just yet.

I got into my car, and started to drive. I first drove around a desolate Philadelphia. I drove to the house I grew up in from age 10 until 18. I drove past my beloved high school, and my favorite cheesesteak shop, and my best friend’s mom’s house near where I would play stick ball with my brothers. I drove to the usually bustling Italian Market and listened to the silence that only a crisp, late-summer’s day could bring. I drove to Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River, parked, and looked across to the state of New Jersey, wondering if, like I, they were feeling a pain and confusion beyond their wildest imagination. And then, I drove to the church I was married in, and I walked through the open doors, and I sat in an empty pew.

That, is when I cried.

Catholicism comes with a guilt that only most Jewish people can relate to. I sat in church, guilty of not having stepped foot into it since the day I was married almost two-years prior. I felt the guilt that I was there to ask for something; to request something of a higher power that I had not paid attention to other than to call his name is angry situations. I felt the guilt, but it didn’t stop me. I fell to my knees and let loose a wail. I cried for every child who would never see their parent again. I begged the Lord to make it stop – to cease whatever attack was potentially about to happen. I cried hard, and plenty, and I pleaded until I had nothing else left. And that’s when I felt I was ready to go home.

 *********** 911a

Seeing the jets crash into each tower replayed over and over and over on my television was surreal. I couldn’t get a hold of any of my New York friends and had no idea if they were safe or not. But the thing that got to me – the thing that, without hyperbole, CHANGED MY LIFE – was the coverage of the people who were searching for their loved ones. It was, by all accounts, the papers. Papers and flyers with “missing” at the top. Families crying, holding paper signs in the September night with brothers’ and sisters’ faces emblazoned across them. “Please. Please call this number if you’ve seen my son, Michael. Michael, please call us. We can’t get hold of you and we’re worried. Please, son. We love you.” I can still hear them in my head. I heard them over and over on the night of September 11th as I sat alone in a bath tub trying to wash away the day’s memories.

I sat, and I thought, and I contemplated, and I cried, and I hurt, and I wondered, and I eventually decided…

I wanted a divorce.

Maybe not that day, as that would have been a cold, heartless thing to bring up after all of the traumatic events, but I knew, right then, that I wasn’t going to live a life that I didn’t want to live any more. I wanted to travel, and my ex-husband didn’t. I wanted to wait to have kids and he wanted them now. I wanted to live my life and make my own memories and he was not along for my ride. And so in that bath I decided to change my outcome. I wasn’t going to let my life slip away in some cold, soulless shop in the only city I had ever lived in. I was going to start over. I was going to travel, and eat fine food and see fine art, and make fine, fine love without the pressure of having children when I wasn’t ready to have them. If there was a silver lining to 9/11 for me it was my realization that life can be taken away at any given moment, which allowed me to take my life back and create more valuable moments to leave behind should I die. I didn’t want to die never having seen the Mona Lisa, or Michelangelo’s David. I refused to be buried without having sipped French wine in France or Belgian beer in Belgium. And so I followed through on my decision, and I’m happy to say that thirteen years later, it was the right one.

***********

I will never forget the events surrounding September 11, 2001. I will never forget my first flight afterward, or my first trip back to Ground Zero three months later. I will always remember the look on my son’s face when I took him to the memorial two years ago as he touched his tiny fingers to fading letters in Todd Beamer’s name. I am, like you, forever changed as a person. But I am, also like you, forever proud of being American.

May the souls of those lost be at peace and may the hearts of those left behind break ever-so-slightly less today. We all remember 9/11.

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Red Carpet Radness

Not Much More than Bore and Snore: My 2014 Emmys Red Carpet Recap

The Emmys are long over, and the verdicts are definitely in: too many red gowns, too many white gowns, too few fabulous jewels, too many wins for Modern Family. But hey, other than that they were great! (Sarcasm.)

EMMYpost2

Who here wants to Polka? Suddenly I’m hungry for Kielbasa.

Re: fashion – Whose idea was it to make the Emmy’s look like the Polish flag? Since when was Poland ever fashionable? It gets crazy cold there. Loads of snow and kielbasa, plus hats, coats, and scarves, which is not usually what I think of when I think “awards season.” And while I adore the color red – seriously, it’s been my absolute favorite color since before Pantone existed – somewhere I felt like some new style council co-sponsored by Crayola, Coca-Cola, and Lucifer, himself, must have gotten all of the stylists together and promised them a lifetime supply of colored pencils and freedom from eternal damnation if they dressed their clients in the crimson hue. I mean, I, unlike most, get it. The color is attention-commanding. It screams of power and of sensuality. It beckons the eyes of those present to stare longingly and wantonly at the person brave enough to don the color in such a public forum. Like I said, I get it, but there is such a thing as overdoing it, and on this particular red carpet, it felt evilly overdone.

EMMYpost3Yet, almost as if the Archangel Raphael (as in, celebrity stylist Karen Raphael) saw what Beelzebub was planning, he decided to swoop in from his perch on catholicmatch.com’s website to give that little devil a run for his money by shrouding the good wives (though ironically enough, she was cloaked in black) in the absence of color… white. Oh, the punny headlines, they were a plenty. My friend and #emmyjewelry event tweeter, Michael Schechter, quipped, “Looking forward to groaning at ‘Celebs Say I Do To White’ headlines…” and man, was he on the money.

Variety Magazine: “Emmy Fashion: Red, White, and Safe All Over”

T.V. Guide: “Emmys Fashions: White Hot Looks”

LA Times: “White Outfits on the Red Carpet”

TheDressDown.com: “2014 Emmys: All White, All White, All White!” (I will at least give this one a point for creativity.)

(Shaking head) Who writes this crap?

If I were one of the dozens of actresses dressed in either red or white at this event I’d have canned my stylist via text message back stage, that’s how pissed I would have been. “I can’t believe you put me in white, Phillipe! This is what I pay you to do, for fuck’s sake! You get major cash to make me stand out and now I’m a photo grid on People.com, in between Robin Wright’s backless pantsuit and Sofia Vergara’s pantyless backside. I CAN’T COMPETE WITH THAT! Were you deceased when you dressed me?? Guess what? I’m Donald Trump. And guess what else? You’re fired.”

Clearly it would have been a really long text. I’d say several “dings” worth.

But I will admit that even with the commonality of fashion color trends, there were some definite standouts. My favorites in white were OITNB’s Laverne Cox wearing Marc Bouwer with Fred Leighton jewelry (more on those jewels coming up), and Angela Bassett (she’s 56, y’all!) in a long-sleeved Elisabetta Franchi wrap dress with gold accents and jewels by David Yurman. In red(ish), I adored Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Carolina Herrera with Lorraine Schwartz jewelry even though I was disappointed in her for forgetting who designed her clutch. She’s usually the one I depend on for those things. (Gives disapproving look.)

emmypost1

A few (a very few) of the pieces that stood out at the 2014 Emmys

Re: jewelry – Whether you loved or hated the jewels on the carpet there is one thing we can all agree on… there weren’t a lot of them. Or, better yet, there weren’t a lot of them with umph. Or there weren’t a lot that stood out. Or many that were made by those who weren’t the usual suspects. Don’t get me wrong, I thank Deity every awards show for the likes of Fred Leighton, Chopard, Neil Lane, and Lorraine Schwartz, for sometimes, it seems that without them we would have no bling to gawk at, at all. And I know, I know, the jewelry often… no, always… takes a back seat to the dress and in reality there’s only a small percentage of us in this business who scream for today’s Liz Taylor of the jewelry world. Sadly, we didn’t get her on this red carpet, but I’m optimistic that we may see her in the near future.

So what did we see Monday night? Well, we saw yellow gold in many forms, which I’m sure made several people in this industry very wealthy happy. We saw it take the form of a Fred Leighton salamander on the back of Kristin Wiig, as well as an Ana Khouri tiara in Michelle Dockery’s hair. We saw it plentifully donning Christina Hendricks’ ears, wrists, and fingers via designer Neil Lane, and we saw it by Lorraine Schwartz surrounding gorgeously classic canary yellow diamonds on Lucy Liu. We also saw several platinum pieces like the fabulous ninety-five carat Chopard diamond necklace on Kate Walsh (though it would have stood out more on a lower-cut gown) as well as on Laverne Cox in the form of Fred Leighton diamond earrings, bracelet, and Art Deco brooches sewn into her dress. Other stars wearing platinum were “Pregnant” Panettiere, “Matthew Was Supposed To Remember Who Designed My Dress” Alves, and “I Can’t Pronounce Anyone’s Name Tonight” Stefani, which is the perfect segue into my next category…

Re: mispronunciations/forgetting who designed your free wearables – Robin Givhan wrote a fantastic article for the Washington Post last week titled “Pushing Products on Emmys Red Carpet” that put into perspective this specific topic. “Monday night, the poor, overwhelmed stars of the small screen were finding it impossible to remember all the names of the brands that gave or lent them their one-night wardrobe of fancy stuff,” she quipped, and continued with, “Model Camila Alves could not remember who designed her white, embroidered gown. And when husband Matthew McConaughey, wearing a lapis-blue tuxedo by Dolce & Gabbana, whispered the name in her ear, he only managed to remember half of it and mispronounced the half he did recall. Something with a ‘Z’, he gamely offered. Poor Zuhair Murad was sitting in his atelier weeping.”

If you were following the jewelry industry hierarchy at the hashtag #emmyjewelry last Monday evening, then you already know how these acts of “forgetfulness” bother the hell out of me. Am I supposed to have empathy for those WHOSE JOB IT IS TO MEMORIZE LINES FOR A LIVING when they just happen to… oops… not know who provided them with everything they’re wearing? And I’m sorry, but seriously, are they really forgetting or do they just not give a rat’s ass? If the Dalai Lama gave them a brooch to wear at the Emmys and someone from E! asked about said brooch (though, having someone from E! ask about the jewelry would be far-fetched, in and of itself) are we really to believe that they’d “forget” that it was from the Dalai Lama? No. I don’t believe that for a second. I believe that they’d scream it into the microphone because they would CARE enough to *remember*… and that really is where I have a problem. Big houses like Fred Leighton and Chopard have so much revenue that it’s not a huge burden on them to cloak celebrities in hundreds of carats of diamonds, yet a lot of celebrities walking the various red carpets can afford to pay for the jewelry they’re wearing, but they don’t have to. And so when a lesser-known designer comes along who has put their heart and soul (and money!) into making jewelry (or a gown, or a clutch) spectacular enough to appear in such an elaborate spotlight, it is, in my opinion, the duty of the celebrity to care enough to know the name or brand of the designer who was kind enough to dress them, in every format that dressing occurs. Yes, it gives exposure to the designer and yes, that means that it does work both ways, but let’s face it, who do you think is really coming out on top here?

I have an idea, or rather, a suggestion for the talented (and not-so-talented… I’m looking at you, Mrs. Rossdale) folks in the entertainment industry that could potentially help them not look so awkward, and frankly, so entitled, on the red carpets of the future: write your providers down on a piece of paper, a la an acceptance speech. Take a tiny yellow Post-it note and simply scribe…

Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti (so fab)

Dress: Helmut Lang (a personal fave)

Jewels: Irene Neuwirth (we want to see more!)

Clutch: Insert Clutch Maker Here (I really don’t know many)

The television world and we fickle bloggers will be thrilled that you cared enough to give CORRECTLY PRONOUNCED shout-outs to those who rightfully deserved them and chances are you’ll become our new heroine/hero. And yeah, we know that you don’t *have* to impress us, or anyone for that matter, but there’s a point where you must ask yourself what the appropriate thing to do would be, and this small gesture would potentially make you look golden to the masses, and everyone will feel better in the long run, believe me.

So, that’s what I’ve got for you, loves. On a sad note but completely related, I am heartbroken to hear about Joan Rivers’ medical situation and have so many fond comedic memories of her from my childhood into my adulthood. Funny, beautiful women seem to be few and far between in Hollywood, and those who can make fun of themselves seem to be even scarcer. The world never knew the likes of Joan Rivers and likely never will again, so I will end this post with some of my favorite and fitting quotes from The Funny Lady, herself:

“I’m in nobody’s circle; I’ve always been an outsider.”

“I think anyone who’s perfectly happy isn’t particularly funny.”

“I was smart enough to go through any door that opened.”

“I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive. Things are happening.”

And of course…

“I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

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Uncategorized

Because I Can: Today’s Favored Jewels as Told Through 1980’s Daytime Soap Opera Titles

Raise your fingerless neon glove if you’re a child of the eighties.

Remember that first week of summer vacation after 7th grade? When your stay-at-home dad took on an actual hobby that left you alone with the television from 1:00 p.m. until 3? Remember curling up on the mint-green loveseat with your can of Aqua Net and Hello Kitty blanket praying to heaven that the day’s episode would include a scene or several with Roman Brady? Remember thinking to yourself… “If I ever have a son, I’m totally naming him Roman, and I don’t care what my husband says about it!”?

Well, I do. And yeah, that kid-naming thing happened. So today I decided I’d showcase some of my favorite jewelry out there right now by categorizing them under 1980’s Soap Opera names. Don’t thank me yet; there’ll be plenty of time at the end, unless of course my cousin who is actually my half-stepbrother returns from the dead to avenge our godmother’s untimely death in that terrible corn-husking accident. YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE!

AS THE WORLD TURNS

As The World (and Ricardo Basta's earrings) Turns

As The World (and Ricardo Basta’s earrings) Turns

Swirl Party Platinum and Diamond Earrings

Swirl Party Platinum and Diamond Earrings… they TURN!

For those who don’t know, the adored and beloved Julianne Moore got her start playing two characters on this here Opera du Soap. She played Frannie Hughes – a wealthy Oakdale socialite who flunked out of Yale yet also studied at Oxford (an obvious slacker) – as well as playing Frannie’s nerdier half-sister (and cousin! I swear to gawd. I am not making this shit up) Sabrina, who Frannie eventually moves to Haiti with so that they may volunteer there after the massive earthquake toppled the country.

All of this plot spinning makes me long achingly for these Ricardo Basta platinum and diamond “Swirl Party” dangle earrings that turn on the wearer (see what I’m doing here?). Created with briolette and rose cut black diamonds as well as 550 high-quality round brilliant cut white diamonds, these stunning earrings would have looked marvelous on Frannie on that night she attended the symphony with Seth Snyder before they were engaged (which Frannie then broke off because Sabrina tricked Seth into sleeping with her, thinking it was her doppelganger half-sister/cousin. WHORE!).

ALL MY CHILDREN

Erica Kane was a real Mutha...

Erica Kane was a real Mutha…

Heather Moore Pendant with All (Someone's) Children

Heather Moore Pendant with All (Someone’s) Children

Before Sarah Michelle Gellar started slaying Vampires (which is pretty much when the uncoolness of vampires began for me. Forgive us, Anne Rice), she played Kendall Hart – the daughter of the character of the most famous actress ever to have been shunned by the Daytime Emmys (until 1999)… Susan Lucci. Lucci’s uber-infamous Erica Kane confusingly (no joke… the story line is MIND MELTING) wound up with three children of her own by the end of the series. This leads me to believe that if Erica Kane had lived among us common folk… you know, drank an occasional solo cup of gin and shopped the clearance rack at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls… she might just wear this lovely Heather Moore silver and 14K pink gold heart pendant engraved with the names of her adoring brood, “Kendall,” “Bianca,” and “Josh”… because, what else would her kids be named in 1986 on daytime TV?

THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

When I think bold and beautiful, I rightfully think of Kerri Halpern’s Madstone line of jewelry, and particularly, her Mythology collection. So when I had the idea to write this sort of quirky/throwback/pop-culture blog post, I was surprised at the tie-in I was able to find between this particular soap opera and Halpern’s goddess-like adornments. Namely, HRH Princess Theodora of Greece.

Greek Princess meets Greek Goddess on Daytime Television, no less

Greek Princess meets Greek Goddess on Daytime Television, no less

Wha?

So Bold and So Beautiful; the Persephone Ring by Madstone

So Bold and So Beautiful; the Persephone Ring by Madstone

Yeah!! Get this! In 2011, Princess Theodora debuted on The Bold and The Beautiful as Alison Montgomery, Bill Spencer’s devious assistant who was able to feed him valuable information about the Forresters! And what heinous Highness would be complete without a bauble to personify her most deviant of deeds? I say it’s the 18K yellow gold Persephone ring for you, Ms. Montgomery! IF that is indeed even your real name (face slap)! The golden carved citrine shrouded by multi-colored sapphires, fire opals, rubies and diamonds should be a welcome accessory to the hand you tend to keep so… “under.”

SANTA BARBARA

I wanted to watch this show so badly just because I was thirteen and it had my name in it, but it came on at the same time as Another World and there was just NO WAY I was going to miss out on Anne Heche playing both good and evil twin sisters (by the way when you Google “Anne Heche” the term “Anne Heche Crazy” is the first to pop up. Try it. You’re welcome.).

Santa Buttercup... errr, Barbara

Santa Buttercup… errr, Barbara. As You Wish.

Calla Gold Emerald Studs, made in Santa Barbara

Calla Gold Emerald Studs, made in Santa Barbara

Before Robin Wright was Robin Wright Penn, or, as she was even better known, Buttercup from The Princess Bride, she played one of the show’s original characters… Kelly Capwell. Poor Kelly Capwell. Poor, pretty, rich Kelly Capwell. Always in relationships with serial killers or falling in love with guys who eventually died horrible deaths. She was the “Ivory” girl though, ya know? And honestly, Robin Wright herself is not very much different looking – from the classic and demure standpoint – which is why I feel that these deco-style Asscher Cut emerald studs by Santa Barbara personal jeweler, Calla Gold, would look lovely on her today, back then, or forever. They represent Santa Barbara so very well, dontcha think?

GUIDING LIGHT

It would be only fitting to end this post with the daytime drama that started it all. Guiding Light is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running television drama in history. Stars like Jimmy Smits, Hayden Panettiere, Mira Sorvino, Billy Dee Williams, and, believe it or not… CHRISTOPHER WALKEN… (check his wiki!) all got their breaks after roles on GL.

Compass Gents Band by Meister... to Guide your husband back to the Light

Compass Gents Band by Meister… to Guide your husband back to the Light

I had two ways to go with this particular Soap Opera/Jewelry connection. I could have gone the “Light” route, however, I already used Shawish’s illuminating octopus bracelet in an earlier post and really couldn’t find another lighted piece of jewelry I loved, and so, I chose to go the “Guiding” route with this titanium and 18K rose gold gents band by Swiss and German brand, Meister, that is not only as cool as hell and fashionable in a very German way, but it also doubles as a working compass for those nights your husband claims that he can’t find his way home.

Hope this little piece of mine brightens your Friday and brings you back to a time when Luke and Laura was the only wedding you cared about caring about.

Have a rad weekend!

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Uncategorized

To Fee, Or Not To Fee, That Is the Question

This post has been floating around in my brain for some time now along with the title – a direct nod to the playwright of all playwrights, William Shakespeare – however I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure if I could use the word “fee” in the syntax I needed to. Luckily for me, “fee” is also a transitive verb meaning, “to tip,” so it works well with the subject at hand, as you will read about right now.

What makes someone who writes, “A writer?” After all, we all write, do we not? We write emails to our co-workers and lunchbox notes to our kids. We write out Christmas cards to Nana Eleanor and we scribe letters to our neighbors asking them to politely stop letting their Pekingese/Dachshund/Bulldog mix poop in the kiddie pool. We write in heated response to conservative political Facebook posts and we write about mediocre celebrities in one-hundred-and-forty characters or less. We write. We write a lot. So why are we all not writers? Is it the same reason we’re all not chefs? And how much of that reason has to do with money?

A recent entry by my great friend and fellow jewelry blogger, Monica Stephenson, touched on this very topic which fueled my often internal debate about where I want to go with my skill. She wrote “There have been some discussions recently, online and in real life, amongst friends and colleagues who alternately lament–and applaud–this brave new era. Anyone with an internet connection and a publishing platform can say they are a writer. When everyone is a writer, it gives voice to original thoughts that might not have been heard from behind traditional gatekeepers. But when everyone is a writer, words can be cheap.” And yet it seems that even when the content is cheap, there are so-called writers being paid a hefty price for their opinions, which is what is known in the world of marketing and advertising, as the now often present “sponsored post.”

Let me be clear about one thing before I go any further: I do not write for a living, and I have not written a sponsored post for money. I write because I love to write. I write about jewelry because I know about jewelry, and, because I love to write. That doesn’t make me any better than the next writer, or blogger, or social media manager, or even tweeter, but it makes clear where I stand and what my opinions are about writing for money. I’d love to write for money as an editor or contributor for the trade, but I never want my opinions swayed by the almighty dollar. What I think about anything is mine right now. I own it. It belongs to me alone and should I wish to share it with the world I will, through either this blog, or one of my two personal blogs, knowing that when it is shared it is up for debate. You have a differing opinion? I want to know about it. I may even want to challenge you on yours because chances are I feel passionately and whole-heartedly about mine. And my opinion? Well, it’s pure, I can guarantee you that. It’s untouched by money. It’s as true as it gets. This is where I take issue with “sponsored posts.”

Just about every morning I go through a routine which I can imagine is similar to that of most of my blogger friends. I complete my motherly/wifely/humanly pre-coffee ritual before sitting down to the laptop to open my Gmail. There, as I’m sure a fair amount of you understand, is where I find the multitude of marketing emails letting me know about this new collection or that current brand. And man, I love it; I truly, truly do. I get giddy when I think that I’m taken seriously enough to make the lists of those looking for exposure. And I go through every last email – no joke – skimming all the images and reading every quote, and if something strikes my fancy, I file it away for potential future use. But too often between the “To Whom This May Concern” greetings and the “we hope to hear back from you” closings, are bodies filled with monetary offers willing me to say that I like their product and wear their product and believe in their product on my very public forums. While I’m no less flattered at these emails than I am of any of the others, I can honestly say that I’m ethically bothered by them. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the difference between us and them; the ones who do what we do because we believe in what we’re doing, and the ones who revel in the fame, exposure, and money of it all. Maybe, that’s really what makes us the real “writers.”

Recently, another good friend of mine, Monica Bielanko (yes, another blogger named Monica!), who writes for Babble.com among other well-known blog sites wrote a piece on her personal blog, The Girl Who, called, Liberation. In it she explains how she believes that personal blogging has gone M.I.A., and that (her words) “… all the sponsored shit infiltrated everything everywhere.” She continues to express how she believes that personal blogging is all but gone now: “Most of the good bloggers have gone totally sponsored and/or edit what they share to the point of boringness. I went that way for a bit. Shit, I have a couple sponsored posts on here that make me absolutely cringe in horror when I go back and read them. Me, half-heartedly trying to weave my love for Pillsbury into a personal post. Sorry about that. It is what it is. You need to make money to live and suddenly there are people telling you that you can get paid to do the same thing you’ve been doing for years for free and you’re like, why not?”

However, Monica goes on to give several reasons ‘why not,’ with one in particular that reached out from the screen and punched me in my face… You can’t write about what you want when you’re trying to be attractive to potential sponsors and my immediate response was no different from hers…

Yeah. Fuck that shit.

I like my writing. I like the rawness of it and the realness of it. I like digging deep into an emotion and coming up for air just before it suffocates me. I like offering my industry a human side because after all, who here doesn’t love a good F-bomb from time to time? And you know what? You like it, too. You know you can only read so many stories about twinkling facet-patterns and multi-colored stack rings. You know you only have so much patience for dogs wearing tiaras and antique rings from 1953. You know it’s true, and I know you know it’s true, and I’m making you a promise right here and right now that I’ll never, EVER, give you a story, or an opinion, or some bullshit anecdote because some multi-million-dollar company paid me to. What you see is what you get: fuck, shit, boobs, asshole, and all. If those words bother you, there’re a million other fashion/jewelry/style blogs to make up for the tiny void this one will leave in your life. They’re out there, waiting to give you everything that’s fake about this industry. They’re the college football player who dropped out his sophomore year to go pro because he was gonna get paid; who’s now endorsing everything from Reebok to Mountain Dew to Trojan Condoms and Chiquita Bananas (sold separately). Me? I’m the 340 pound player on the O-line that nobody thinks will last more than two years. No endorsements. No one knows my name. But you know what? I’ve got my degree in biochemistry to fall back on when the shit hits the fan, and when the money runs out for that guy, I’ll be content in knowing I played with heart. I’ll be happy as shit knowing that I did it for the love of the game; nothing less, and certainly nothing more because in my mind there is nothing more. No one will ever force my hand because what I think on my own deserves its own place in this business.

feeTHIS POST HAS BEEN SPONSORED BY ME. I paid for this post with years of English classes, hundreds of literary masterpieces read, and a dozen books on the appropriate use of grammar. I paid for it with the hyperbolic blood, sweat, and tears that every *real* writer feels, has felt, and will continue to as they put on paper that which is painful. I paid for it with the words of my friends, the faith of my colleagues, the envy of my enemies, and the honor that comes ONLY from being true to myself.

I am a blogger.

I am a dreamer.

I am a student.

I am a mother.

I am a jeweler.

I am a thinker.

I am a writer.

I AM A WRITER.

And what you’ve just read above is exactly what makes me one.

 

(Mic drop)

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How This All Got Started

The Awesomeness of Thirty, Part 2: This Industry Is FLIPPING RAD!

Way back on August 9th of last year I published my first full-length blog post right here on Adornmentality. “The Awesomeness of Thirty” was my second published post but the first to disseminate my comedic and sometimes over-the-top style of writing. Once it was live it felt like an accurate way to show the blogosphere that I had arrived and planned on staying. Today, on the one-year anniversary of the day that Adornmentality was launched, I give to you my thirtieth published post.

*****

The “City”

The City, to me, is as familiar as it is strange. It represents lotteries won as much as it does deaths in the family. Its tunnels are vacuums sucking me into its temptations. Its bridges, outstretched arms letting me know that it will hold me when I need it to. Its high-rises remind me of both its strength and its vulnerability as they glow proudly in the dawn, yet weep silently in the dusk. The City, is my home away from my home away from home. It’s the taller, prettier, more interesting sister of my native Philadelphia, and it has brought me more joy, pain, ecstasy, and heartache than one should ever be allowed to feel in a lifetime.

BFWOears

Ear Climbers by Mrs. T at Luxe Intelligence

The City is where I and many others get into trouble. The City, to quote the song “Sea of Love” by The National, is where “Trouble will find me…” and it does, and it has, and it likely will again, but this time the City was nothing more than a platonic friend who asked me out for coffee so that they could talk shit about politics and discuss the latest earring trend being seen on red carpets everywhere. I decided I’d sneak a flask full of bourbon into the coffee shop on 43rd because let’s face it, what’s a little gossip without a little booze, yeah? Yet as I expected, the City brought their own, only theirs was a Macallan 18, in a thermos the size of a fire extinguisher.

I love you, City. I’m so happy to be in you. I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now. 

***** 

BFWOluxe

Andrea Hansen in the background. Mrs. T. Caviar Rings up front

If you haven’t had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with WJA President Andrea Hansen in her LUXEIntelligence showroom on West 45th, you’re missing out on the kind of experience that stays with you long after the buzz from the bottle of Chardonnay that the two of you killed while there has worn off. This is how I spent the first few hours of my Saturday in New York. So many jewels to gawk at/rings to try on/questions to ask/answers to ponder/grams to Insta. She’s a gift to our industry, this woman, like many before her and many beside. And if you’re a designer looking to publicize your brand, I suggest making LUXE your first stop as you consider your investments.

New York Jewelry Market Week is nothing like Vegas. That’s not to say that shenanigans weren’t or aren’t had. New York is the Mecca of the U.S. jewelry industry and every year thousands of buyers flock to the two major summer shows (JA-NY held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and JCK Luxury Prive held this year at the Waldorf Astoria) in the hopes of getting their holiday orders in before it’s too late (What are you waiting for, people??? I’VE GOT MOUTHS TO FEED!). Also held the same week are some major industry events, including the AGS Circle of Distinction Dinner, and the long awaited and always anticipated, WJA Awards for Excellence Gala.

Last year’s post, “The Awesomeness of Thirty,” largely focused on the Women’s Jewelry Association’s 30th birthday that was celebrated grandly at the Awards for Excellence event. This year’s gala marked the WJA’s 31st year, yet the event was no less spectacular and not without surprise. Gala chair Natalie Humphrey of Forevermark blew the eventually uproarious crowd away with her live (hear that, Lana del Fake? LIVE. As in, ‘not pre-recorded for studio audiences’) piano-accompanied rendition of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Not to be outdone, Platinum Guild president Huw Daniel led an all-male striptease act (a-la “Magic Mike”) that included guest appearances by Darwin Copeman, Kevin Reilly, and a surprisingly – shall we say, (ahem) gifted – Matthew Tratner.

WRITE!

WRITE!

(I threw that last part in to see if you were paying attention. Clearly no one stripped while at the event. I cannot speak for what Mr. Copeman does in his spare time, however. I’m just sayin’. I’m pretty sure I saw him pay for his drinks in damp one dollar bills.)

BFWOvegasjems

Half of the #VegasGems seated at the GUMUCHIAN table

The 2014 Awards for Excellence winners included Heather Moore, Michelle Graff, Chana Regev, Kim Adams, Cathy Calhoun, Amy Jackson, Jennifer Peck, Desiree Hanson, Rosanna Doherty, and Fran Pennella. The Lifetime Achievement Award, (in case you’ve been living in a swan’s nest and this is the only industry blog you read) was given to the AGS’s Ruth Batson, and the Ben Kaiser Award was given to Jewelers of America President and CEO, Dave Bonaparte. Richline (not to be confused with Richemont or Rich People Who Only Wear Brands By Richemont) received the Corporate Award, just to prove, yet again, that Corporations are indeed people. Wait… what?

As usual, my ladies – the #VegasGems – were representin’ at the event with every one as gorgeous as the next. Also representin’ were my boobs, but that’s for another blog post, entirely. I spent a large part of the evening hootin’ and a hollerin’ from my table for my favorite nominees which eventually enticed Jeff Post to lean over from his table to remind me that I wasn’t at a Flyers game. Sorry err’body. I blame the pinot grigio.

Left to right: Yours Truly, designer Wendy Brandes, and A4E nominee Monica Stephenson of Idazzle.

Left to right: Yours Truly, designer Wendy Brandes, and A4E nominee Monica Stephenson of Idazzle.

This year’s massive dessert spread and after-party were sponsored by the consumer-facing, uber-popular World Gold Council initiative, LoveGold. (***EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS POST IS NOT SPONSORED BY LOVEGOLD. HOWEVER, MATTHEW TRATNER DID GIVE ME TEN BUCKS TO ALLUDE TO HIS ANATOMIC GIFTEDNESS. I REPEAT: LOVEGOLD HAS NOT SPONSORED THIS POST IN ANY WAY. FYI THAT TEN DOLLAR BILL WAS ALSO SORT OF DAMP***) At this time of night there’d been more champagne passed around than a Kardashian in a frat house so everybody was having themselves a fabulously lovegoldelicious time. One particularly fun part of this event the last couple of years has been Rio Tinto’s “Diamonds With a Story” photo booth which by this late hour had a line longer than the Starbucks inside Javits at 8:50 a.m.

The WJA A4E gala is my favorite jewelry industry event of the year for several reasons. Mainly, I get to spend time with women I adore and network among some of the biggest names in the biz. I’ve never felt as if I wasn’t among peers at this event… I’d even go so far as to say that I feel even more as if I am among family. Ever have someone tell you something positive that was so unexpected you actually felt a shift in your life take place where you stood? That happened to me at A4E. Someone pulled me aside and said “You’re like the Dorothy Parker of jewelry. Keep going. Make your mark.” And I haven’t been able to will the moment out of my skull. Nor can I stop laughing at Mrs. Parker’s famous quote when asked to use “horticulture” in a sentence…

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

Man, I would have loved to have hung out with her. Maybe because I see similarities between us. Maybe, if Dorothy Parker lived today, and wrote a blog, and was who she was back then, now, she’d have celebrated her one-year anniversary in the way that I suggested I wanted to celebrate mine… by letting everyone who has ever read it flip her a big’ ole middle finger. So many innuendos. So many hidden meanings. And so much of her personality in this one, simple, inappropriate gesture.

You gals (and guys)… y’all are something else, I’ll tell you that. Thanks for taking part in my little #birdsforwords experiment and for letting me enter your lives over these last twelve months. Let’s keep this thing going, yeah? And lastly, let’s take a look at the #birdsforwords that are now and forever part of the internets.

Smooches. On to the next year!

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