Friday, October 02, 2015

The Sunrise Motel…

A true Halloween story

Bat Bangle Bracelets
In the 1960s, a typical family summer vacation was the car trip. And, like every other California family, mine headed for the national parks.  We zipped along highways and crept down gravel roads on our way to exploring canyons, deserts, caverns, and forests. The itinerary for a week long excursion would swing through several locales. Mom undertook the packing – clothes for all of us, sandwiches for the ice chest and a thermos for coffee. Dad gassed up the Plymouth for 32 cents a gallon and perused interstate routes on a gigantic fold out map that never folded back down to its original size.

One week, in late October 1968, my dad got the itch to visit Monument Valley on the Arizona/Utah state line. Putting in marathon mileage behind the wheel, by the end of day two, he announced he was stopping. The sun was setting and a Motel 6 or Travel Lodge was nowhere in sight.  We were miles from the next cluster of roadside hospitality and street lights.  In the gathering darkness, we spotted a lone neon sign ‘Sunrise Motel,’ and Dad pulled off the highway.

More tired than hungry, we gratefully accepted lodging in a small, dingy cabin divided into two rooms. Dad and my brother shared the back; my mother and I in front. We’d finally settled in, our blankets pulled way up to shield us from cold drafts wafting through the cabin. They noisily rustled the window shutters like unseen fingers stroking harp strings, but we fell asleep anyway. 

It must have been some hours later that I was startled awake by knocking at the door separating our rooms. My dad opened the door a crack. “Evelyn,” he called softly, “I think a bird got into our room.” Mom was groggy and not in the mood for bird catching.   “Open your window a little-- maybe he’ll find his own way out. “ The door closed, but not fifteen minutes later, it opened again.  “Ev—there’s more than one bird. They’re roosting in here…listen…hear that chirping?” She pulled on her robe and opened the door wide. Desert moonlight filtered into the room, revealing an eerie sight.  There were rows of bats, not birds, lining the beams of the ceiling. Suspended upside down, they looked like rows of dead leaves shivering in a gentle wind.  One of them suddenly broke ranks and darted across the room to a window frame, completely outlined in bats.
Bat Necklace

Trying to hide her alarm, Mom grimaced and held a finger to her lips, ordering silence. As quietly and moving as smoothly as possible, leaving bathrobes and toothbrushes behind, Dad and my brother slipped into our room, closing the door to theirs, now filled with chirping bats. Dad hugged an open suitcase under each arm instead of clicking them shut while Mom ever so carefully lifted the front door latch for our escape.

Outside, still uncertain of our proximity to danger, we tiptoed to the Plymouth, our wonderful big blue, four door, bat-less refuge.  Everyone pretended to nap as we waited for sunrise before driving away.

Friday, September 25, 2015

These leaves will never fade...

Sure to be a favorite autumn keepsake!
Little squirrels chatter among a fall harvest of pearl acorns, Czech glass leaves and leaves of different trees in copper and bronze. Note the enamel leaf on the toggle clasp. In the 1940s, larger, expressive costume jewels were indispensable accessories to fashion. Throughout autumn, retail jewelry counters swelled with novelty pieces. Wooden acorns were clustered on plastic chain. Carved bakelite leaves formed bar pins. Even natural nuts and pods were crafted into jewelry. Lavish charm bracelets became the rage! In the 1950s, designers began creating bolder pieces with colors and themes neither inspired by nor adapted from previous jewelry. 

Hungry little squirrel
Our bracelet displays a Fall harvest of glass pearl acorns, autumn color glass and metal leaves. Can you spot the three hungry little squirrels hiding among the leaves? Keep it forever and flaunt it every fall! Jingle jangle warmth and whimsy.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vintage Jewelry: Fab or Fake?

Join me... in West Los Angeles College
for three informative and entertaining Tuesday evenings in October

I'm going to share my knowledge and insights about my favorite subject and my life's work as a designer, manufacturer and historian of jewelry. 

I'll unlock the mysteries of vintage and antique jewelry by showing you how to recognize design, materials, origin and authenticity. You'll learn how market value is determined and why jewelry often doesn't depend on gem or metal weight for its enduring value. You'll handle and study hundreds of examples of jewelry and components from every fashion and design era.. 

Deepening your understanding of vintage jewels will elevate your fun in buying, wearing and collecting. I also encourage you to bring your own pieces to share. 

Please register as soon as you can!

3 Tuesdays 7-9pm
Oct. 6 thru Oct. 20
Class ID# 34376

West L.A. College in Culver City, CA
Register online 24/7 at or call 310-287-4475

Thursday, August 06, 2015

An ancient, mystical symbol...

Worn for fashion or spirituality, the cross is the most enduring of all jewelry themes. Since prehistoric times the cross has symbolized life, fertility, health and immortality. This mystical, ancient symbol was revisited in the Renaissance and again throughout time. 

Like many symbols, the cross represents a broad spectrum of ideas. It is viewed as a coordinate where north, south, east and west come together. It also joins the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water. It was thought to have symbolic meaning prior to acquiring its Christian symbolism. Today the cross is known as a spiritual, protective and ornamental emblem throughout the entire world. 

Each of our crosses blend fashion with art and beauty through exquisite sculptural details and production techniques. Stunning filigrees, shaped like the architectural details in old cathedrals are distinctly vintage. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The devil IS in the details…

My dear reader,

For Sweet Romance jewelry, our finished product cannot possibly result from assembly line production.  Most designs require talent in various techniques, handling each piece one at a time.  

A cuff bracelet of artistic excellence and profound
meaning, the subject is the Monarch Butterfly
The creation of just a single original piece of jewelry is quite a process, requiring a broad knowledge of materials and methods. It’s yet another story to do a production run of, say, 100 of the same article. Problems and obstacles quickly overtake the joy of the creative side of a project requiring perfection times 100. 

Our Monarch Butterfly Cuff is an example. Once off the drawing board, we order several of the tooled parts – the cuff and butterflies. We cast the settings and pierce worked elements. The butterflies arrive with sharp edges which must be smoothed with a hand drill. The gorgeous carved onyx flowers come in, but they vary in size and most don’t fit the settings we made. Ok, so we make additional settings of varying sizes to accommodate the problem.
Here's how we do it--the traditional method of joining elements--torch heat and years of experience.Click to shop our Rosette Cuff which is made in this technique.
We’re ready to join the parts which requires a variety of different solders because the melting points of the metal elements are all different . Insufficient heat means a cold joint that won’t hold. Just a tad too hot and the fixed elements begin to drift and melt. There we are—a finished bracelet. ..What do you mean a butterfly is on crooked? We’ll just torch the underside and
Click to take a closer look at this amazing turquoise ring!
 move it a little... whoops, we melted an edge of the round setting. In lifting off to replace it, the blasted butterfly has heated and slipped again.  Only 184 more butterflies to go… Days later,  we finally have our 100 bracelets ready for the next calamities of plating, burnishing and enameling.  

They say that everything must fall apart in order to come together again...that a Phoenix rises from the ashes…(at least our butterflies really do.) Anyway, that’s the axiom we’ve come to live by in the production of our jewelry designs.  It accounts for the beauty and complexity of every piece.

With love from Shelley

Thursday, June 18, 2015

‘Statement jewelry’…whatever that means…

Traditional jewelry making is a lifelong apprenticeship in a multitude of different arts. At first you aspire to become proficient in the basics of fabrication: cutting, carving, casting and soldering. Then, there’s the ornamental finish work such as enameling, engraving, stoning and beading. Harnessing your abilities to produce an admirable piece of jewelry from a design sketch is a very un-glamorous proposition. You must wrestle with all the mechanical aspects of birthing a creation so that its finished form compels someone to wear it for its beauty or self-expression.

Gemstone beads are cut,shaped and polished.
Click to view our Blue Creek bracelet featuring
lapidary cutcabochons.
Much of the jewelry out there is a monotonous rehash of some theme, handed down by the trend gurus (whoever they are), mass produced overseas and marketed by every tier in retailing. A pink plastic geometric necklace plated in imitation gold, made in China is offered by a hundred small vendors on various websites for a couple of dollars and another couple of dollars for delivery to your door, 6,000 miles away. You can buy the very same “statement necklace” at a tony department store for >$100, labeled in the name of a celebrity “designer” whose offerings, from purses to bathroom towels, dubs them a “life-style brand” (whatever that is).

Quality inspection of our Auturm
Haze necklace with frog knot closure.
The fundamental requirement for innovative design has been swapped for efficiently marketed private label goods.Modern technology has enabled the jettison of junk in mass quantities through all arteries of commerce with such speed and transparency that we can shop the same item online for 3 bucks or 30. 

Thankfully, more women are going negative on so-called fast fashion. They’re looking for items that show evidence of artistic expression and fine workmanship. The world of manufacturing is hovering on the brink of DIY 3-D printing of a thing-on-a-string necklace. I’m betting that true lovers of jewelry will instead print a dog toy; that they’ll continue to acquire jewelry from actual practitioners of the art such as myself and my talented staff at Sweet Romance. What’s your take?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Jewelry revolt of 1900: Entre Art Nouveau

True to the aesthetic that flourished on the eve of the 20th century, 
we present this necklace in the Art Nouveau style. Click to buy.
The industrial age blasted through the 20th century, sure to displace everything that had been once made by hand or one of a kind. Couture bowed to the sewing machine, woodworking gave way to the lathe and even jewelry became a mass produced commodity. But there was an undercurrent of rebellion forming among designers, makers and patrons of the decorative arts. Some think it was a certain Parisian art dealer, Siegfried Bing of Maison de l'Art Nouveau, who unveiled and promoted a totally new design aesthetic which included all the decorative and industrial arts,

Designers, at the turn-of- the-century intended to rise above machine made mediocrity. They shocked the senses of those accustomed to the drone of the Victorian status quo. Art Nouveau flourished in a world of rapid social change. The “new art” brought design innovations that weren’t derived from any previous art form or period style. It stressed hand fabrication over machine production. The form and beauty of an object was deemed more valuable than the intrinsic worth of its materials.
Our  botanical nouveau pendant from which a 3-D baby frog
reaches for a luscious baroque fluorite bead. 
Click to shop.

Art Nouveau abandoned Victorian excesses. Jewelry, in particular, experienced a transformation. It was sinuous and elegant. Botanical themes featured the whiplash curve, pulled, sinuous vines, natural textures and movement. Flowers and insects took on meandering lines as if shaped by wind or water. The female form was expressed in a poetic and sensual manner. There was nothing rigid or formal in the new style. It brought emotionally charged works of art to jewelry fabricated by legendary studios such as Lalique and Tiffany, Vever and Ashbee.

To suit the demands of the design, enamels and glass were often used in preference to gems. Precious stones and metals were viewed as secondary to the selection of materials and finishes for creating objects of virtue. Art glass became a primary element in Nouveau design--the artistry of glass jewels and applied coloring was as much a part of the jewelry rendering as its form and theme.
Even in its day, Nouveau jewelry was expensive and avant-garde. Women were timid about wearing it until it was embraced by Sarah Bernhardt, the most adored stage actress of her time. She commissioned jewelry and hair ornaments, causing a fashion fever for the new style.

The new aesthetic resulted in an emancipation of jewelry from being mere status symbols to a high art form. However, just 15 years into the new century, WWI broke out. The demand for munitions production to fuel the war effort broke off the love affair with Art Nouveau and brought the Machine Age soundly into place. Though it thrived for just a brief slice of time, Art Nouveau had become established as a celebrated and influential design movement.
A garden of Art Nouveau flowers and crystal bead winged dragonflies. Sensational! Shop this bracelet

It reminds me of short seasons of tremendous personal growth that have shaped my art as a jewelry designer, my life and perspectives. What are your some of your most deeply loved treasures? Is there an art style or subject or endeavor that makes your life especially more joyous, more complete? Please post a comment below...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Is it breaking away from the daily grind we yearn for?

Route 66 Jewelry for the journey
Click here to shop this necklace

He and I loved the freedom of the open road in summertime. One year, we rambled through the southwest via old Route 66 in his dad’s restored Plymouth, a boat-of-a-sedan made for comfort and luxuryThe look of that car fit right in—it completed the scenery of 66.  There was an added dimension of harmony and nostalgia seeing it parked at old gas stations, trading posts, rusted neon signs and abandoned cabins.  We cruised through Arizona with windows wide open. Scorching heat created a shimmery haze on the distant road and it bleached the desert sky a faded aqua blue. I remember his easy laugh, my shiny red fingernails, our cooler full of root beer and sandwiches. 

View the Desert Gemstone Bracelet
Maybe you’ve done the trip, too. Or want to someday. Is it breaking away from the daily grind we yearn for? What is it for you? What grabs your heart and kindles your imagination? Please post your comment...
Thunder Hill steer skull earring and ring holder.Whimsical subject; seriously beautiful sculpture. Click to shop.