I experienced an internal debate this week: how personal do I really want this blog to be? Obviously I write from my own point of view, and certainly don’t feel like I shy away from inserting my perspective or experiences in each post.

But this post is a little different. We recently said goodbye to my “Nana” at 99 1/2 years of age, and have been very focused on celebrating her life and legacy.

She was many things to many people, and her life belongs in an epic novel or Oscar-winning film — romance, war, intrigue, pioneering career, and plenty of the proverbial plot twists.

She deserves particular mention in this forum because she had a true love of fashion and a terribly keen eye for style. Never would she appear in public or receive someone in her home without a complete outfit (often a suit), makeup (Chanel), and coiffure (permanently hairsprayed). And her accessories… I would swear that I inherited many traits from this admirable woman, with her obsession with shoes/bags/scarves/jewels chief among them.

Picture this graceful and dignified lady, and the picture must include her jewelry. Until a few days before she died, she wore her engagement ring, wedding band, right-hand ring, bracelet, and two necklaces. Daily. Aside from occasional removal for cleaning (and when I could coax her to let me inspect each piece with a loupe), these special pieces remained with her always. She did not believe that her “best” pieces were just for special occasions — or, if she did, she believed that each day was special enough to warrant their wear.

Nana was a woman from another era, but she stood apart with her genteel feminine looks and bold assertions of gender equality in her career: she practiced law right alongside her husband, and only allowed her Bar membership to lapse at the youthful age of 90. No woman could serve as a better role model, and she maintained her fierce dedication to both beauty and success for her entire amazing life.

It’s true that we remember our family members as much for the little things as anything else, and so I will try to remember that each day is worthy of my best.

Hot Off the Bench

I think it’s time for a new serial feature, don’t you?

Conveniently, our fabulous goldsmith has come up with a little project to work on, and I thought it would be a great way to show how some types of custom jewelry come to life.

This time we’re starting the process by selecting gemstones and designing a piece around them. It’s often fascinating to consider how different people approach the same materials, and probably says a lot about each unique personality and taste.

In my case, I’ve selected this Azurite & Malachite pair to play with:

Azurite & Malachite diamond-shape doublet pair
Azurite & Malachite diamond-shape doublet pair. Pretty, huh?

At first glance, the mind goes immediately to a pair of earrings. Dangles perhaps, with a simple wire wrap and lever back. But the more I toyed with the idea, the less I liked it — the object of this lesson was to create something I might actually wear, and earrings weren’t ringing any of my bells. Instead, I picked up a pencil and started doodling a necklace, something casual to wear in those warmer months the meteorologists insist will come.

The deep blue and vibrant green with globe-like land and sea contrast cried out for a more organic accent, so I began to toy with freshwater pearls, various chains, and other elements to create a simple but laid-back (and just a little coy) Y-necklace design.

Original sketch -- basic concept, a few notes on possible metals and accents
Original sketch — basic concept, a few notes on possible metals and accents
Orientation and placement of stones
Orientation and placement of stones
Sample materials, including chain, pearls, and some malachite beads
Sample materials, including chain, pearls, and some malachite beads

At this point, it’s time for a discussion about materials, structure, logistics, and of course the total cost (design, materials, labor). We’ll be looking at the practical execution of a general idea, and hopefully resolve any potential issues during the actual design process. Will the Y be too heavy? Are the beads and chain in the right proportions? How does the necklace lie on the neck, and how do we prevent issues like spinning? What kind of clasp is best? How long should the Y-portion be?

The logistics can be overwhelming at first, but a methodical approach and talented, experienced goldsmith are the keys to figuring out the best way to achieve a beautiful end result.

Stay tuned to see how these component parts come together as a whole, finished piece of wearable artwork!