Portal pendants

There may be no better conversation-starting piece of jewelry than the locket.

Lockets are so specially secretive and inherently mysterious. What’s inside – and why?

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My favorite locket by Waxing Poetic.

These content-carrying pieces of jewelry were first employed to port perfume for ladies in the 17th century and later morphed into wearable tokens of loved ones. They also served to signify adherence to a leader or a faith and were worn by both women and men. Known most obviously to contain photos, they have held small charms, love letters – even ashes and poison.

Lockets reached their zenith of popularity in the 19th century, when they were regularly presented to mark special holidays and milestones, including funerals.

Even as styles have shifted drastically, the locket has remained a constant, appropriated by every major jewelry trend in the 20th century. You’re just as likely to see someone wearing one today as you would have been when Queen Victoria made mourning an official pastime.

victoriaShe too, loved the locket. Her husband Albert gave her this bracelet (right) that, in its final form, bore nine heart-shaped enameled lockets containing a lock of each of her children’s hair.

Today, lockets are worn not only for sentimental reasons but to demonstrate personal style. Lockets themselves often don’t resemble their forefathers. Origami Owl has popularized the “living locket,” hingeless clear discs inside which float a series of charms personally selected by the wearer or giver.

From the classic to the contemporary, lockets are the most magical of mementos.

The benefit of bangles

12974507_10154200854853755_894595498306239693_nThere is no greater form of gratitude than giving back.

The ladies behind Alex and Ani jewelry have made appreciation an art form. Literally.

Dozens upon dozens of organizations have garnered generosity via the company’s Charity by Design concept. For more than 5 years, 20 percent of the purchase price of that line of bracelets has generated funds and awareness for associated charms’ charities. To date, more than $1 million has been raised.

And it gets better. Alex and Ani stores – like my local shop in Cherry Creek North – host events to support their communities. Just last night, my friend Jen and I attended a happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m., during which 15 percent of all sales would be donated to one of my favorite nonprofits, Think 360 Arts. Don’t mind if I do!

I did, however, employ restraint and buy only one bracelet, despite my desire for many, many more. I have a feeling this is going to snowball very quickly. (Have you seen how many choices there are?!)

There is so much to love about this company, from its dedication to recycling and its overwhelmingly vast body of work to its incredible corporate citizenship. Best of all – the pieces remain affordable amid that conscientiousness.

It’s this type of enterprise that deserves the devotion its fans demonstrate. Bidding wars for retired pieces are commonplace on eBay among clamoring collectors. The girls here in Denver showed me a photo of a woman who loved the Rulers of the Woods series so much, she tattooed it on her arm.

Stack them up. Pile them on. Collect away. There is definite elegance in this kind of excess.

 

Sedimentary sentiment

20160404_204236-1_resized_1“Did you ever love me?” I asked.

He blinked. “There is a probability I did at some point, but I don’t, now.”

His words were exacting. Clinical. Cold.

I had walled up my feelings for him over the better part of a year until that very moment, when it was far too late. I’d been afraid of drawing attention to the obvious imbalance of emotion between us. But here it was, striking me in the face with each of his stony words.

Then, like so much dust in the wind, he was gone. I never saw him again.

I was wearing this necklace (above, right) that day as our relationship crumbled. (Fitting, don’t you think?) I had stumbled upon it days earlier at Simply Sterling in Broomfield. It was love at first sight.

But enamored as I was with that cobbled creation, I couldn’t bear to look at it. It served to remind me of that crushing day and of the fault I bore.

I carefully buried the necklace in my jewelry box as I mourned our uncoupling. There it stayed for years, waiting to again glint in the sunlight of happier days.

20160404_204124-1_resized_1In the meantime, I added to my pile of stone-patterned silver. My broken heart healed. I got married and gave birth to the most adorable nugget this side of anywhere.

I even found a similarly pebbled pendant, bearing a bright red stone, while on vacation with my now-husband, just a month before we married.

Rocks are formed one of three ways: through cooling and solidification of melted rock, when soil and other materials on the Earth’s surface are eroded and finally settle down into layers of sediment or as the result of extreme environmental pressure. One could say I’ve undergone similar changes since the years-ago cooling of that relationship.

Only last weekend did I finally unearth that first necklace. It is no longer synonymous with a broken heart, cracks in my psyche or with failure. Instead it is a symbol that good things come to those who wait and that pressure and pain can have a surprisingly beautiful result.

 

 

 

No vacancy

It’s no mystery why hordes of people become “transplants” in Colorado – and why natives cherish their fortune of having been born here. Our bluer skies, myriad recreation opportunities and the 300 annual days of sunshine we boast are just some of the thousands of reasons the Centennial State is the crown jewel of the United States.

Snow or shine, Colorado is an epicenter of creativity – particularly for jewelers. Some of my favorite designers live and find their inspiration here . So today, this space is reserved for fellow Coloradans Deanna Hood, Deb Fine, Ina and Kristin of iNk jewelry and, of course, the John Atencio.

2016-04-05 14.23.53_resizedDeanna Hood
Deanna Hood’s jewelry is reminiscent of the items a mother might find in the pockets of her child’s overalls at the end of the day. A gorgeous mishmash of found objects, handmade lampwork beads and whimsy, her pieces have helped to support her family after the untimely passing of her husband.  A fun fact about this artist: One of her most treasured pieces of jewelry is her Little Orphan Annie Decoder pin. Her designs can be found at Willow Artisan’s Market  in Old Littleton, where I found this treasured teacup (right).

 

20160404_204413_resized_2iNk Jewelry
Former Colorado craft sale rivals Ina Gustafsen and Kristin Rankin decided to combine forces in 2002 to form iNk jewelry. The pair creates unique pieces formed from recycled silver that takes all sorts of  shapes ranging from everyday items to participants in our natural world. Their work can be found in a dozen shops across the country, as well as on Etsy.

The artists sweetly refer to their creations as “inkets.”

I snatched up this adorable piece (left) while killing time with retail therapy – and after a double bourbon –  before an international flight at DIA. (I’m not a good flier.)


Deb Fine
20160404_204032-1_resized_1Deb Fine, namesake and talent behind Fine Designs, has a passion for the power of gemstones. Her website reads, “Everyday Deb is thankful to be surrounded by the beauty and wonder of natural gems: their colors, their textures, and their properties are the muse for her designs. The interplay of colors and how they can satisfy, excite, or soothe is a constant source of inspiration.”

For more than 12 years, Fine has worked to establish a strong presence on the Front Range at craft fairs and in small boutiques, relishing in the “enhancement of a woman’s visage by a little burst of color and an eye-catching design.” Her work can be found at a number of shops, including Silk Road on South Gaylord, where I found this little trinket (right).

 

20160404_203838-1_resizedJohn Atencio
John Atencio is arguably the most well-known jewelry designer from my home state. A fellow alumnus of Colorado State University (GO RAMS!) he revolutionized modern jewelry, popularizing offset stones, mixed metals and alternatives to the more typical round, princess, pear, marquis and square cuts. His pieces are distinct, solid, colorful  and fun. While I also treasure a limited edition sterling silver ram horn he designed to honor his Alma Mater, my personal favorite piece of his is this ring (above) which my mother gave me to mark a big career change.

I invite you to dabble and delight in the designs of these artists. Just please, don’t move here. We’re running out of room, not unlike my jewelry box.

You should go

CdpGNsDWIAAt5Am.jpg largeI’m going to let you in on a little secret.

On nearly a weekly basis as my daughter takes her Saturday or Sunday afternoon nap, I commit unarmed robbery.

Well, unless you consider a debit card a weapon.

In truth, I’m getting away with screaming deals and steals at my local TJ Maxx.

I keep in my bank account hundreds of dollars that would otherwise be kissed goodbye if I didn’t have a visceral aversion to paying full price.

Examples? I’ve got them in spades – including Ms. Kate Spade.

Kate Spade leather tote – $99. Original price $350.
Michael Kors suede handbag – $50. Original price $248.
Zac Posen wallet – $99. Original price $195.
Tory Burch scarf – $40. Original price $175.
Ippolita 18k initial charm – $79. Original price $595.

TJ Maxx is a mecca for discounted designer items. And, contrary to popular belief, nothing is wrong with said merchandise. The aren’t “factory seconds” or damaged or irregular.  They’re just marked down.

20151011_155423_resizedDon’t get me started on the fantastic housewares that are up for grabs (those are just accessories for your home)! I got a Cynthia Rowley comforter set, sheets and throw pillows (pictured left) for a total of $60.

Yes, it’s a bit of a commitment to patience to find these kinds of prices because, due to their nature, these discount stores aren’t as neatly organized or compartmentalized as Neiman Marcus, Macy’s or Nordstrom.

I think that just makes the shopping trip more fun.  The Mothership (as my friends and I lovingly refer to TJ Maxx) and its brethren, Marshalls, Ross and Steinmart are new stores every week. They are never the same place twice. A visit to any of them is rarely fruitless.

This great post encapsulates the justification of my discount devotion – and further explains how to make the most of the Maxx. And, fellow Maxxinistas often tweet to spread the gospel of successful bargain shopping.

Now if we could just get TJ Maxx to branch out into groceries, I’d never have to go anywhere else again.

Minnie me

PicMonkey Collage

We’re going through a phase in my house right now. It’s all Minnie. All. The. Time.

We have Minnie Mouse hair bows, dresses, shirts, warm-up suits, swimwear, sunglasses and scads of books. Minnie’s face graces our 2-year-old’s umbrella, play apron, gardening set, sleeping bag and night light.

minnieA hooded Minnie Mouse towel and its hoodless sister  are the only allowed after-bath drying accessories. Queen Bee is sure her food tastes better when consumed from a Minnie plate,  bowl or cup and she brushes her teeth with a Mickey and Minnie toothbrush.

Minnie Mouse dolls, play sets, bouncy balls and hopscotch mats are the featured decorations in our living space and the Minnie’s Bowtique theme song is never far from my present thoughts.

The merchandising people of the Disney empire surely love my family. We have all bought in, Minnie Mouse toy hook line and sinker.

Our day care provider keeps a running tally of how many days in a row Minnie Mouse appears in our girl’s ensemble. Every morning, it’s the same routine:

Me: “It’s time to get up and start our day! What do you want to wear?”

Queen Bee: Placing her finger pensively to her lips.. “Hmm. How about something… Minnie?”

If no acceptable Minnie-wear is available, Queen Bee dissolves into a puddle on the floor and becomes a two-che bag, hurling stinging barbs at the offending clothes and at me.

“That dress/shirt is yuck! It doesn’t have Minnie on it.”

“THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH! I WANT SOMETHING BETTER THAN THAT!”

“Mommy, you’re making me frustrated!”

20160401_080513_resizedMaybe I’m to blame. I have, after all, saved my own Minnie Mouse ring since my first trip to Disneyland when I was 5.

Or maybe it’s my husband’s fault. He DID insist on getting her a Minnie-themed infant seat.

It could be Grammie’s doing, since she bought Queen Bee’s first Minnie Mouse doll.

We may never determine the root cause of Queen Bee’s Minnie-mania.

I guess we all have our style icons. Mine are just three-dimensional.

Deep-seeded

20160328_221901-1_resizedMany of my accessories share a common “theme,” repeats of an overly loved image, symbol or pattern that speaks to me. Some, I can’t explain why I favor (I just do) and for others, the meaning is deep-seated.

By far, the most prolific imagery in my life is of the leafy variety. Leaves of all shapes and sizes are commonplace in my wardrobe. I am enchanted by them – both real and decorative. I love the elements they comprise: the mosaics and coursing lines of their veins, the flowing or rippled edges of their bodies. The variety is deliciously endless.

As a Colorado native, I think there is almost nothing more beautiful than the changing colors of the trees in Autumn as we make way toward the quiet blanket of winter snow. The vibrant greens of spring and summer turn to the bold yellows, fiery oranges and burnt reds of Fall. Eventually the leaves curl up, turn brown and finish their existence as sweet-smelling mulch underfoot.

But those details are just a bonus. Really, I love leaves because of Freddie.

51EKy2gE2iLIn second grade, Mrs. Clogg read The Fall of Freddie the Leaf to my class. I remember sitting on the floor with the other students, silently startling when I learned I wasn’t the only one. Freddie was afraid of dying, too.

Little Freddie clings to his branch, awash in his mortality even as his wise friend Daniel offers words of comfort, urging him to accept the facts of nature.

“Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.”

“I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination.

Freddie was like me. He didn’t share his friend’s ability to calmly agree to the inevitable.  My mind raced back to a night when, at 4 years old, it first occurred to me that my life would not last forever.

That night, I ripped into the quiet, screaming, railing against the realization that I would someday end.2016-03-30 11.01.45_resized

Freddie understood how every fiber of my being fought the concept of cessation, how my heart pounded, my skin prickled and my stomach clenched. He said “no,” too.

Today, those screams still catch in my throat in the pressing silence of nighttime. I am frequently paralyzed by the same panic that my mother soothed by painting my fingernails that first night when I was 4.

In the story, Freddie eventually lets go with the help of a gust of wind. As he floats toward his fatality, he revels in the beauty of the part he’s played in the larger life of the tree.

I’ve still got a very firm grip on my branch. But the lovely leaves I often wear serve as a gentle reminder that I’ll get there.