Red Carpet Jewels: The 2019 SAG Awards

The 2019 SAG Awards had a kind of busted-looking gray carpet, not a red one. Fortunately, that didn’t keep many of the stars in attendance from going all-out with fabulous red carpet jewels. Below are my favorite jewelry looks of the evening. I stuck to my usual caveat: if the head-to-toe look doesn’t work, you don’t make my list.

Rachel Brosnahan in Irene Neuwirth

Rachel Brosnahan Irene Neuwirth SAG Awards 2019
Rachel Brosnahan attends the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards wearing Irene Neuwirth earrings and a matching ring. Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

Rachel teamed up once again with Irene Neuwirth, wearing a custom-made pearl and diamond version of a pair of earring available for purchase on the LA designer’s web site: shoulder-dusting ribbon earrings. Note the matching ring on her right index finger. The whimsical design of these earrings is so sweet and perfect with her Dior dress. And you know everyone at Irene Neuwirth was happy when she did this little hair toss onstage:

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2019 SAG Awards Rachel Brosnahan Irene Neuwirth Earrings
Courtesy of Irene Neuwirth. Shoutout to all the brands that provide product photos of jewelry worn to awards shows! Y’all are the real MVPs.

Gemma Chan in Vintage Harry Winston

Gemma Chan SAG Awards 2019 Vintage Harry Winston Earrings
Perfection. Getty Images
Gemma Vintage Chan Harry Winston Earrings SAG Awards 2019
Getty Images

She looks incredible. Even stunning beauties like her can bungle an awards show appearance, but this entire ensemble is flawless. That Oscar de la Renta gown, her hair, makeup, the matching black belt and shoes, and of course those vintage Harry Winston earrings. Just look at them sparkle! To die for.

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Emily Blunt in Forevermark Diamonds

2019 SAG Awards Emily Blunt in Forevermark Diamonds
The ring on her right hand is everything. John Shearer/Getty Images for People Magazine

Emily Blunt is a treasure. Few people could pull off this pink, ruffled Michael Kors creation, but she looks fantastic. The Forevermark diamond jewelry is a perfect complement to her look. Let’s take a closer look at her earrings and ring, shall we?

The earrings contain 11.73 ct. of diamonds set in 18k white gold. The one of a kind Force of Nature ring has a really cool back story. The 3.48 ct. center diamond is the 2 millionth (!) diamond cut by Forevermark, and the design of the ring was inspired by the horns of the Kudu, an African antelope. It just so happens those horns perfectly complement the ruffles on Emily’s dress.

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Yes, you deserve a round of applause. Well done!

Rachel Weisz in Cartier

Rachel Weisz SAG Awards 2019 Cartier Earrings
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

What to pair with a Givenchy Haute Couture dress featuring metallic ostrich feathers? A design that’s a little wild, perhaps. I love these swingy, sparkly Cartier earrings from the Panthère de Cartier collection.

SAG Awards 2019 Rachel Weisz Cartier Earrings
The Panther earrings have diamonds, onyx and emeralds set in 18k white gold.

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Margot Robbie in Chanel

2019 SAG Awards Margot Robbie Chanel dress and earrings
Chanel earrings to go with a Chanel dress. Getty Images

This Chanel dress is stunning, but let’s get a better look at the earrings.

SAG Awards 2019 Margot Robbie Chanel Earrings
Wearing Chanel Les Perles de Chanel San Marco earrings. Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

These are the Chanel San Marco earrings from the Les Perles de Chanel collection, featuring Gold South Sea pearls, Akoya pearls, yellow sapphires and diamonds. They match her dress perfectly, and I imagine that’s no accident. It’s possible that the dress was designed around them, but I can’t be sure. Either way, I am on board with all of it.

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Show ’em off, girl!

2019 SAG Awards Chanel Les Perles de Chanel San Marco Earrings Margot Robbie
Man, do I love these. Courtesy of Chanel

Lady Gaga in Tiffany & Co.

2019 SAG Awards Tiffany & Co. Lady Gaga
Courtesy of Shutterstock

It’s no surprise that Lady Gaga is sticking with Tiffany & Co. this awards season. While it’s hard to follow a necklace like the one she wore at the Golden Globes, I think it’s great that she went with yellow gold, a metal we don’t see much in awards-show jewelry. Let’s get a better look.

The necklace and earrings are from the 2019 Tiffany Blue Book collection, a high jewelry collection set to be released later in the year. The yellow gold really pops with her all-white Dior dress, and the diamonds are set in platinum, making them stand out. The bangles she’s wearing on both wrists are from the Tiffany True collection.

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And there you have it, my top picks for red carpet jewels at the 2019 SAG Awards. I’m looking forward to the Oscars!

Red Carpet Jewels: The 2019 Golden Globe Awards

The 2019 Golden Globe Awards red carpet was chock full of statement-making jewels. More is more was the jewelry rule of the day, and those of us who work in the industry were thrilled. When I sat down to choose my favorite red carpet jewels of the evening, I gave myself one caveat: in order for someone to make my list, his or her whole look had to work. In no particular order, here are my favorites.

Rachel Brosnahan in Irene Neuwirth

These mismatched one-of-a-kind earrings from LA designer Irene Neuwirth caught my eye immediately, even looking at a full-length shot. I noticed right away that the larger stones were yellow and cut in different shapes. Later, I confirmed that those stones are yellow tourmalines, and the light blue stones are blue tourmalines (perhaps indicolite). It’s cool that she was adventurous enough to choose an asymmetrical pair of earrings set with yellow gemstones to wear on the red carpet. Most attendees lean toward the traditional in both design and stone choice, so cheers to Rachel for doing something different. Bonus points for her perfect marigold Prada gown.

Allison Janney in David Webb and LeVian

Fun fact: the pendant is detachable and can be worn as a brooch. Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

This was the perfect necklace to pair with her turquoise Christian Siriano dress. I love the doubled chain and where the pendant hits on her chest. This is legendary American jewelry house David Webb’s Heraldic Thorn Link Necklace from the Ancient World collection. The combination of cabochon emeralds, carved ruby leaves, cabochon turquoise and diamonds set in 18k yellow gold and platinum knocked my socks off. Allison gets bonus points for the use of a red bag, which helps bring out the red of the rubies in the necklace as well as the rubies in her LeVian studs.

Image courtesy of David Webb

Dakota Fanning in Vintage

The necklace was provided by Beladora, a premier retailer of antique and vintage jewelry.

Dakota Fanning is giving me modern Cinderella here and oh man, am I into it. Her platinum and diamond garland necklace is actually a vintage find provided by Beladora. It was made circa 1995, but the bow and flower motifs lead me to believe it was inspired by the Edwardian era. It is simply divine with the clean lines of her Armani Prive dress and makes for a great statement piece. Oh, and if you’re a fan as well, it appears to be for sale.

Courtesy of Beladora

The bow detailing is a particularly sweet touch and helps keeps this big diamond look age-appropriate for the 24-year-old actress. The back of her dress has a vertical row of five fabric bows, so there’s a nice tie-in there. Haha, tie-in. Because bows! (Sorry).  I like that she paired it with sleek diamond studs. I think a drop or dangle would have made this look a little too Kensington Palace ball. 

Julia Roberts in Chopard

All hail queen Julia.

Julia Roberts was a top overall look for me. This perfectly tailored Stella McCartney dress-pants hybrid (can you tell I’m not a fashion blogger?) looks exquisite on her. With a neutral-colored one-shouldered top like this, she had many different styles of earrings to choose from. The Chopard double drop linear earrings make a statement without overwhelming a look that has a lot going on.

Action shot!

The size of the pear-shaped diamonds and the length of the earrings are really working for her, proportionally. Their lines just work so well with her long neck and old Hollywood wavy hair. Well done, Julia, well done. She also gets bonus points for wearing gold toe rings on the red carpet and making it work, but good luck finding a decent photo of them online. Trust me, I tried.

Elisabeth Moss in Vintage Neil Lane

Courtesy Getty Images

Elisabeth Moss, aka my BFF Peggy from “Mad Men,” always looks great. I love menswear-inspired looks on the red carpet and this navy Christian Dior tuxedo dress is super cute and appropriate for the Globes. But what really caught my eye were the mid-century Hollywood Neil Lane necklace and earrings she chose to go with her sleek ensemble.

Photo courtesy of her stylist @karlawelchstylist

The jewels elevate the whole look. Looking at the above, which is the best close-up I could find, I actually don’t think this is a matching set. But the earrings and necklace pair perfectly and look stunning.

Anne Hathaway in Lorraine Schwartz

Anne Hathaway is a red carpet veteran at this point and can wear an Elie Saab head-to-toe leopard-print gown if she wants to, especially if she pairs it with earrings like these. Lorraine Schwartz is a red-carpet jewelry mainstay and her brown and cognac diamond mesh earrings perfectly match the colors found in Anne’s risky dress. What can I say? I am a basic bitch who loves things that match. Plus, look at them when they move (this is what really sold me on them):

Swingy and sparkly! Anne’s earrings are the true stars of this GIF. I have no idea what Jim Carrey is responding to and I don’t even care.

Lady Gaga in Tiffany & Co.

Courtesy of Getty Images

If you haven’t seen or read about Lady Gaga’s custom Tiffany & Co. Aurora necklace at the Golden Globes this year, you officially live under a rock. It’s unavoidable. And you know what? It’s freaking spectacular. You don’t really get the full impact until you see it move, so here you go.

It’s so sweet how much she adores and admires Bradley Cooper.

Lady Gaga was dressed to win, and she did, for best original song. I’m glad that she went big with her entire look because the whole thing really worked for her. If anyone can pull off an enormous periwinkle Valentino ball gown with matching hair, purple eye shadow and a one-of-a-kind necklace that features a 20.00 ct. pear-shaped diamond drop, it’s Gaga. Bless her for always keeping the red carpet interesting. It’s been a lot of fun to see her in her latest incarnation: movie star.

Saoirse Ronan in Chopard

Saoirse Ronan won the night for me. In addition to being my pick for overall best dressed, her emerald and diamond Chopard earrings were absolutely stunning. They really made her whole look. Good styling goes a long way and while they could have weighed another look down or aged her, the earrings are just perfect with her hair, makeup and sleek Gucci dress. The deep green next to her light blue eyes and slicked-back blonde hair looks fabulous. She really knocked it out of the park here. 

Courtesy of Chopard

I’m sure these platinum, diamond and emerald chandelier earrings were heavy as hell, but I believe they are clip-ons so hopefully our dear Saoirse wasn’t suffering too much. (Platinum is heavier than gold and isn’t used as much as other metals in big earrings for that reason).

Honorable Mention: Dudes

It was a fun year for the men as well! These two were my favorites.

Timothée Chalamet in Carter bracelets and rings. Sparkly vest, shirt and pants by Louis Vuitton.
Stephan James in a Swarovski lapel pin, Chopard watch, Ralph Lauren suit and Louboutin Homme shoes. Just get someone to straighten that bow tie for you next time, okay buddy?

And there you have it! My top picks for red carpet jewels at the 2019 Golden Globe Awards. Awards show season has just begun, so stay tuned for more.

‘Tis the Season: Working Retail in December

Ah, the holidays. The time of year when everyone collectively exhales, relaxes (or at least unclenches) and revels in more time spent with family, friends and loved ones. The lights, the decorations, the food! Isn’t it marvelous? And all that time off! Even people who don’t celebrate Christmas have told me this is their favorite time of year. 

It’s a whole different story if you work retail in December. For us, Thanksgiving through the new year is go time. Those horrific videos of Black Friday shopper stampedes  come to mind. I thank my lucky stars I don’t have to deal with anything like that! In comparison, the December frenzy at Zadok Jewelers isn’t so bad. While I do work more days and longer hours, for me, it has more to do with the mental space devoted to work than anything else. Take today, for example. It’s Monday and I have the day off. But it’s retail in December, so what “off” means as a salesperson is working from home. It’s actually pretty hard for me to concentrate on writing this. I started working at 8 a.m. and sent 14 emails and four text messages in an hour and a half. My iPad is pinging Zadok eBay-specific tones nonstop.  

Zadok Jewelers in December
Aren’t the Christmas decorations at Zadok Jewelers beautiful?

All this to say, my time spent sipping hot chocolate wrapped in a blanket while contentedly staring at the Christmas tree is in short supply this time of year. To be clear, I’m not complaining. It’s the nature of the beast and I enjoy what I do. But a funny thing happened around my third year working in sales. I hate to say it, but I lost the Christmas spirit. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the season! I know some who downright despise it since their work becomes so stressful and unpleasant. Not to mention, any problem in your personal life is magnified tenfold during the holidays. Sure, co-workers and customers can be cranky, but I haven’t had to deal with a major meltdown or disaster at work (yet). I’m in a strange sort of in-between place where I’m too busy to feel the spirit, but not put out enough to feel like a Grinch.

I’ve tried to combat such ambivalence this year. Our Christmas tree was up and decorated the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Pixel is wearing his Christmas collar. I’m going to as many holiday-related social events as my schedule allows (fine, I went to one), all in an effort to capture that magic. But so far, it’s not really working. I suppose when so much time and energy is devoted to helping others have the best Christmas ever, it takes the wind out of your own red and green sails a bit. But we’re still two weeks away. I have time! Right?   

Retail in December Christmas Tree
Are you too distracted working retail in December to notice your own Christmas tree?

Last year, on a cold night sometime between December 26 and New Year’s Eve, I found myself sitting on the couch home alone with nothing to do. It was an unfamiliar sensation. I remember looking at our Christmas tree with its lights twinkling, really noticing it for the first time since putting it up and thinking, “Oh no, did I miss it?” I turned on the television and went to YouTube, found the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker” and pressed play.

As Tchaikovsky’s music filled the room, suddenly, I felt it. The Christmas spirit. I felt the warmth and the togetherness and the love so particular to this time of year. As I watched the Sugar Plum flit across the stage, I remembered how my mother sewed matching dresses for my sister and I to go see “The Nutcracker” at the Wortham, our annual Christmas family tradition. There is a photos of us in the front yard posing next to wooden reindeer my dad made, all velvet and hair bows. I thought of my husband’s family in Colombia, with completely different traditions that somehow inspire all the same feelings.

On my TV screen the dance ended, the ballerina’s chest rising and falling, the only sign of her exhaustion after the deceptively difficult solo dance. I had been lost in my thoughts, but the audience’s jarring applause snapped me out of it. 

And just like that, the feeling was gone. 

Jewels Around the World: Shopping for Emeralds in Cartagena, Colombia

Street view Cartagena

In my last post, I wrote about spending the day in Bogota’s emerald district. But what if you aren’t spending time in Bogotá during your Colombian adventure? Not to worry! There are plenty of emeralds to be found all over the country. If you’re only hitting Colombia’s Caribbean coast, you’ll love this guide to shopping for emeralds in Cartagena.

There are two main areas in Cartagena where you’ll see a concentration of emerald jewelry stores. The first is in the neighborhood of El Laguito, which lies just south of Bocagrande. (If you’re not staying inside the walled city, you’re probably staying in Bocagrande.) Here, you’ll find an outdoor mall of sorts with multiple emerald stores. I’ve heard taxi divers call it Plaza de las Esmeraldas. As you walk around, people will beckon you to come inside their stores, but don’t worry. Unlike the people who sell stuff on the beach, no one is particularly aggressive about it.

The store I liked the most in El Laguito was called Jewelry Factory. It’s a family business going back to 1953. The people working there were extremely friendly and happy to show me around.

Jewelry Factory exterior
The outside of Jewelry Factory in El Laguito. The charming older gentleman behind me watches the door.

With the owner of Jewelry Factory
With the owner of Jewelry Factory. Behind us is the jewelers’ workshop.



Unlike many stores, they had a section of silver jewelry set with better quality emeralds. Most stores in Colombia save lower-quality stones for silver jewelry, but at Jewelry Factory, they recognize that some people are in it for the stone. I saw a lot of cool pieces that would work well as souvenirs or gifts. I got a cute silver coffee bean and emerald pendant with matching silver chain for about USD $20. Not bad, right?

Silver and emerald coffee bean suite
Silver and emerald coffee bean suite. So cute! There’s nothing more Colombian than emeralds and coffee.

Silver flower studs with deep green emeralds
I almost got some of these silver flower studs set with deep green emeralds. Most silver pieces at other stores will have emeralds that are quite light in color.



For serious buyers who are ready to plunk down some cash for something really special, I recommend Lucy Jewelry, located within the Ciudad Amurallada, or walled city. This is where the second concentration of emerald stores lies. Lucy is the most upscale store of the bunch. If you’re looking for the best Colombia has to offer, this is a great place to shop. It’s gorgeous on the inside, but don’t worry about being under dressed. You’re a tourist, so no one will care as long as you’re not in a swimsuit.

Lucy Jewelry exterior
Lucy Jewelry’s gorgeous exterior. I was on my last day of clean clothes, and they did not judge me for looking like a sweaty bum.

Showroom at Lucy Jewelry
The showroom at Lucy Jewelry. The store is actually a remodeled colonial carriage house. As you can see, the interior stone walls are original.



As soon as we walked in, a salesperson asked if we needed help in English or Spanish, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t have Spanish skills here. Although it lacks a family feel, this store had by far the best quality stones and jewelry out of everywhere I went in Colombia this trip. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any photos of the jewelry, but they did let me photograph a few things.

Different qualities of polished emeralds
Some examples of different qualities of polished emeralds. Which is your favorite?

Rough and cabochon emeralds
Some emerald specimens they keep on hand. I’m fond of the rough crystals (left).

For a little something different, head to Joyas Momposinas L&L, also found within the Ciudad Amurallada. Here, a family from the Colombian city Santa Cruz de Mompox sells filigree jewelry, or filigrana. Santa Cruz de Mompox is known all over Colombia for this type of metalwork, a tradition which goes back hundreds of years to colonial times. One enterprising family decided to take their wares to sell in Cartagena, and Joyas Momposinas L&L was born.

Joyas Momposinas exterior
Joyas Momposinas L&L is on a typical picturesque street in the Ciudad Amurallada.

Window display
A close-up of the window display.



Most of what the family makes is silver, but if you want yellow gold, they can do that as well. While emeralds are frequently utilized, many pieces are just metal. One day I’ll visit Santa Cruz de Mompox and write about it, but this was a great preview. Mompox isn’t a big tourist destination (yet), so this is a great way to see and buy some of the coolest jewelry in Colombia without leaving Cartagena. And, if you ask nicely, they’ll give you a demonstration of the technique in the back.

Filigree earrings
Earrings like these stunners can take days to make. Each little silver thread is turned, twisted and sautered by hand.

Filigree butterfly
They were kind enough to give me a demonstration of the filigree technique. This is a butterfly the jeweler was working on.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to shopping for emeralds in Cartagena, Colombia. Whether you’re spending a few days in the city or just passing through on a cruise, I have no doubt you will fall in love with Cartagena and its people. You may as well take a little souvenir home so you can remember it forever. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Plates with rough emeralds
If you have no appreciation for jewelry, I’m not sure how you found your way to Jewels Abound, but you could always get one of these sweet souvenir plates decorated with rough emeralds from the Jewelry Factory.

Street view Cartagena
Just your average street view inside the walled city in Cartagena.

Jewelry Factory
Local 1, Cra. 1 #1A-120
Barrio El Laguito
Cartagena, Colombia
+57 1 6651519

Lucy Jewelry
Calle Santo Domingo #3-19 Edificio Cuesta
Ciudad Amurallada
Cartagena, Colombia
+57 5 6644255

Joyería Momposina L&L
Cra. 7 #38-2
Ciudad Amurallada
Cartagena, Colombia
+57 6606479

Jewels Around the World: The Emerald District in Bogotá, Colombia

My husband and I just got back from a fabulous trip to Colombia. We traveled to Barranquilla, Valledupar, Medellín and Cartagena to visit family and friends. But first, we went to Bogotá, the thriving capital city with a population of more than 10 million. We lived there for almost a year and it’s where we got engaged and legally married. There are a million things to do in Colombia, but I highly recommend spending a day in the Emerald District in Bogotá, which we revisited during this trip.

The Emerald District lies adjacent to Bogotá’s historic center, better known as La Candelaria. If it’s your first time in Bogotá, La Candelaria is a great place to stay. Beautiful colonial architecture, fabulous food and museums will be around every corner. Plus, every important emerald-related activity is within walking distance.


A view of Bogotá as seen from the Emerald Museum, which is on the 23rd floor of the Avianca building. This building was the tallest skyscraper in Latin America upon its completion in 1969.

The first stop on your tour should be the Museo Internacional de la Esmeralda, or Emerald Museum, located at the intersection of calle 17 and carrera 7. (Click here for an explanation of Bogotá’s grid system.) The Emerald Museum is on the 23rd floor of the Avianca building, which was once the tallest skyscraper in Latin America. Simply enter on the ground floor and tell the staff at the desk that you are there to go to the museum. They will likely ask for ID and take your photo, so be sure to have your passport on you. Then head to the elevator, and up you go.

The doors will open and you will walk right into the reception area.

The reception area of the Emerald Museum.

After paying the COP$5000 per person entry fee (less than US$2.00), a guide will show you to a room to watch a short video about the history of the museum, which was founded in 2008 and displays a private collection. Then, the guide will walk you through a reproduction of three of the most important mines in Colombia: Muzo, Chivor and Coscuez. The tunnel is fake, but the veins in the wall displaying rough emeralds, pyrite and quartz are very real!

This is the only part of the museum where you can take photos. Look, I’m mining!

Then, you will enter a room filled with towers containing some truly stunning rough emerald specimens. The guide will walk you through them, pointing out different characteristics in the specimens that come from different mines. The Muzo mine generally contains the highest quality emeralds. There are also beautiful panoramic views of the city from this room. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in most of the museum.

Finally, you will visit the museum’s store. It’s not your average gift shop. This is where my husband and I chose my engagement ring five years ago. My ring has an emerald center stone from the Muzo mine. This time around, however, I wasn’t very impressed with what it had to offer in terms of design or quality compared with previous visits. Or perhaps I’m just spoiled now that I work at Zadok Jewelers, where I see magnificent gems on a daily basis. That’s probably it. Anyway, their inventory is constantly changing, so be sure to check it out.

The exterior of the Avianca Building.
The Gold Museum is about a 10 second walk from the Emerald Museum.

Right next to the Emerald Museum is the Museo del Oro, the Gold Museum. How convenient! This museum contains multiple floors and exhibition halls displaying gold artifacts and information about gold’s role in the lives of Colombians throughout the country’s history. You could spend hours here. There is an audio guide that you can purchase, and the entry fee alone is just COP $4000 (about USD $1.25). I’ve never felt the need to purchase an audio guide since there is plenty of information on the walls, but many say it’s well worth it.

Indigenous king
That’s gotta be heavy.

Human gold figures with emeralds
Gold figurines show the human form. Often, the indigenous would use emeralds to decorate their gold pieces. Can’t blame them. Gold and emeralds were everywhere!

After all this museum going, you will probably be ready to do some shopping. Lucky for you, there are plenty of treasures to be found. I recommend heading just a few blocks south of the museums to window shop. The sheer quantity of emerald jewelry stores is pretty impressive!

Emerald district in Bogotá
One of a million window displays seen in the Emerald District in Bogotá.

Emerald district in Bogotá
Some emerald rings on display.

I bought a little something for myself at Joyería y Relojería Angie, a family-owned shop of wholesalers in business for more than 20 years. Lucia, who helped us, was extremely kind and happy to answer all of my questions. She has been working with her family for decades, sourcing emeralds directly from the mines. You can find her shop in La Catedral, a small shopping center on a street lined with emerald jewelry stores. To see what I got, you’ll have to keep an eye on the Jewels Abound Instagram!

Emerald district in Bogotá
Some divine loose emeralds I saw at Joyería y Relojería Angie. I was really tempted to get one.

Emerald district in Bogotá
Me with the lovely Lucia at Joyería y Relojería Angie.

Of course, it’s always fun to walk by the Emerald Trade Center to see the traders making deals out in the street. I’ve never taken a picture there because it can be chaotic, but it’s worth walking by.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this e-tour of the Emerald District in Bogotá. Colombia exports more emeralds than any other country, so if you happen to travel to Bogotá, it’s a great opportunity to learn about a huge part of the country’s history and economy. Best of all, it’s accessible to any traveler, from backpacker to trust funder. The museum entry fees are extremely low, and I’ve seen emerald and silver jewelry pieces that start at US$10.00. ¡Buen viaje!

Hurricane Harvey: One Year Later

I remember thinking that this time, it was different. As a lifelong Houstonian, I’d lived through other storms, two of which had left my husband stranded on the freeway for hours in the not-too-distant past. (Welcome to Houston, newbie!) But there was something so ominous and sinister about Hurricane Harvey even before the storm reached Texas.

Mario and I closed on our first house two weeks before Harvey made landfall. We knew our area didn’t have a history of flooding, but that didn’t mean we weren’t terrified. I think we each went to the grocery store twice to stock up on water and non-perishables. Days before the city shut down, the shelves were already emptying. We didn’t have living room furniture, or internet, or a washer dryer, or much of anything, really. But dammit, at least we had food and water.

Empty Kroger shelves.
August 24, 2017: Good luck buying canned soup at Kroger.



Long line at Kroger.
The lines, as you can imagine, were insanely long.


By Saturday, August 26, 2017, all of Houston was hunkered down at home, ready to wait it out. The rain was relentless. There was the occasional break, but it just kept pouring down, so heavy, so loud. With no internet, Mario and I camped out in the living room, glued to the local news.



Dog in front of the television.
Patio furniture, a TV with local channels, lots of wine and a nervous dog.


As time passed, the rainfall intensified. It was very surreal to look out our window and see no flooding whatsoever, then turn to the television and see live footage of downtown Houston, just one mile away, completely under water. So many moments run into a blur in my mind. I remember the panic of the tornado warning, when we grabbed Pixel and ran into the empty master closet. I thought, really? On top of everything else, we have to worry about a fucking tornado?? I remember watching live Facebook videos of friends being evacuated from their houses in fishing boats. The relief every time I learned that my family was still okay. Seeing what we all thought was a photo of Zadok Jewelers flooded, which thankfully was not the case. But when I saw the photo, my heart shattered into a million pieces, and for the first time that weekend, I cried.

Zadok strip center flooded
Turns out, it did not flood. But this photo sure gave us all a scare.

By the end of the day on Sunday, we started thinking that our luck might run out. Hurricane Harvey’s trajectory meant that the storm kept dumping rain over our area. It was as if it wasn’t moving at all. When we went to bed that night, I set an alarm for 3 a.m. When it went off, I got out of bed and went downstairs to look outside and check to see if the raging waters had finally reached our doorstep. But while our ditch was full, there was no water in the street. That was as bad as it got for us. We were so, so lucky.

Ditch full of water.
3 a.m. and nothing but a full ditch.

In the aftermath, Mario and I tried to do what we could to help the people whose lives had been turned upside down. We drove to the temporary shelter at George R. Brown and dropped off water and clothing. I took a friend some cardboard boxes from our move so she could pack up everything salvageable in her grandmother’s house, which had flooded. I volunteered at the Houston Food Bank. The truth is, I felt helpless, and I sank pretty low for a while there. I wouldn’t feel normal again for a long time.

Today, one year later, I choose to remember the endless generosity shown by my fellow Houstonians in the face of tragedy. It was, and still is, the silver lining of the worst natural disaster we’ve ever faced. Many people’s lives are still not back to normal. For some, whatever “normal” they knew before is gone forever. Today, one year later, I think of them.

Does This Ring Make My Finger Look Fat?

“I know this sounds kind of strange, but I think the top part of my fingers look fat, so I want a ring that, like, camouflages that.”

A young woman accompanied by some friends had stopped by the store shortly before closing to look at engagement rings. All were lovely, slender, conventionally attractive women. One friend, I’d find out, was a model, still in full makeup from a gig earlier in the day.

I briefly contemplated the concerned woman’s fingers splayed out before me. She wiggled them back and forth, lost in thought, as she admired an oval halo engagement ring. I gently said what I almost always say now in a situation like this.

“Okay, if that’s a concern of yours, we will find a ring that you feel wonderful wearing.”

I have found it best not to tell a female customer that I don’t agree with her insecurity, or that I don’t see whatever flaw she supposedly has. You see, it doesn’t matter if you or I see a flaw. All that matters is that she sees it.

Yellow gold and diamond engagement ring fat fingers
Does this ring make my finger look fat?

I spent a good portion of my life experiencing the super fun combination of being overweight and having low self esteem, so I know what it’s like to feel self-conscious about just about any bodily imperfection the mind is capable of perceiving. (Or inventing.) But that doesn’t mean I’m not still occasionally surprised by what female jewelry shoppers are concerned about. Here are just a few things I’ve heard, in their words:

Fat fingers, ugly fingers, long fingers, short fingers, large hands, small hands, veiny hands, old-looking hands, toe thumbs, large knuckles, fat wrists, fat necks, droopy earlobes, large ears, ears that stick out, and I’m going to stop there because I think you get the idea.

Let me tell you something. No man that I’ve worked with at Zadok Jewelers has ever expressed insecurity about having fat fingers, and I have sold men’s bands in sizes so large that the band had to be custom-made. On occasion, a man with a smaller-than-average wrist will express dissatisfaction with the fact that the watch industry trended toward larger case sizes in recent years. Although now that Switzerland has woken up and realized that not everyone wants a hockey puck on their wrist, I don’t hear that as much. Generally speaking, the guys have no hangups.

We women, on the other hand, have received subtle and not-so-subtle messages since birth telling us that our physical appearance is of utmost importance. When we’re young, many of us spend a great deal of time and energy preoccupied with meeting the ideal beauty standard of the time. Later, as youth fades, we become concerned with aging, because to be an old woman, apparently, is to be invisible.

This is exactly as depressing as it sounds, but it doesn’t have to be this way. My life became a million times better when I stopped feeling bad about every single flaw I could find while looking in the mirror. When I made every effort to accept myself no matter what, even before I lost 30 pounds. When I realized that I don’t have to feel guilty for for eating “bad” food , because food doesn’t have a moral value and I enjoyed that cupcake, damn it. It was, and still is, a process. I still have bad days sometimes, days when I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see. But for the most part, I feel free in a way that I didn’t for far too many years.

And I wish I could say something like this to every woman who frowns and sighs and fusses over her fingers, or her ears, or her neck. But I won’t; that’s not my job and it’s not my place. I will simply do my best to find her something that makes her eyes light up when she puts it on. Something she can wear, look in the mirror and feel good about. I will tell her, “Don’t worry, we will find something you feel wonderful wearing.”

Because I know exactly how she feels.

 

My Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals and the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault

Recently, I took a rare behind-the-scenes tour of the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals and Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault here in Houston. Both are located on the second floor of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, my favorite museum in town.

Entrance to the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals.
The entrance to the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals on the second floor of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. You can get married here!!

The tour began at 6 p.m., which is when the museum closes to the general public most days. We formed small groups to begin the tour, each with its own guide.  Our group’s guide was extremely knowledgeable about the specimens we viewed and had a detailed answer to almost every question. She was not a gemologist, so the training to be a docent must be rigorous.

We started in the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault. The entrance to this exhibit-within-an-exhibit is inside the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals. The door looks like the door to an actual vault, which is a nice touch.

The entrance to the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault.
The entrance to the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault.

The gem vault displays cut and polished stones alongside spectacular pieces of jewelry.  I couldn’t get over the sheer size of many of the specimens. I’m nearing the end of my GIA studies, so to see such large examples of what I’ve learned about on display left me speechless. While I’ve always loved this section of the museum, I have an even greater appreciation for it after studying gemology formally.

Australian boulder opal
A 2,765.00 ct. Australian boulder opal. Yes, you read that correctly.

Emerald and Diamond Tiara
Platinum tiara with a 42.40 ct. center emerald, 7.56 ct. of side emeralds and 7.89 ct. of pavé diamonds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But you don’t have to be an almost-gemologist like me or a geologist like my dad to appreciate this tour. My mom and husband were equally as enthralled. (Shout out to my mom for letting me know this tour existed!) It’s hard not to be. The stones are lit perfectly for maximum brilliance, and there is no other light. It makes for a dark and serene environment, which was a perfect escape from the hot Houston summer weather that day.

Phenomenal gems
A selection of phenomenal gems. In gemology, a phenomenon refers to an optical property caused by the way light interacts with a gemstone.

A selection of tourmalines in different colors.
Some very large tourmalines in different colors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left the vault and found ourselves back in the main gallery of the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals. This is where gems gleam the way nature intended, on display in their rough crystal form. This part of the tour brought out everyone’s inner hippie as we commented on how remarkable mother nature is. It goes to show you the impact a well-curated museum exhibit can have. How often do you ooh and ahh over the earth’s bounty inside of an air conditioned building with no windows?

Elbaite and albaite tourmaline on smoky quartz.
Elbaite and albaite tourmaline with smoky quartz. Absolutely incredible.

The Rose of Itatiaia, a beautiful red tourmaline found in Minas Gerais, Brazil on loan from the Qatar Museums in Doha. Inside scoop: they have not asked for it back! Fingers crossed they forgot about it and we can keep it in Houston, lol.

The Dragon, gold and quartz. Found in California.
The Dragon, gold and quartz. Found in California.

Finally, we got to see a stone cutting demonstration. It was my first time seeing a stone being faceted, and I enjoyed getting to see the process in person. The cutters were eager to answer questions and seemed to enjoy sharing with us.

My husband examines a rough malachite specimen while talking to an experienced stone cutter.
My husband examines a rough malachite specimen while talking to an experienced stone cutter.

At the wheel. Water us used to prevent heat caused by friction.
At the wheel. Water is used to prevent heat caused by friction.

 

 

 

There were also some specimens for us to handle, such as a piece of malachite and a star ruby.

I wish I could tell you that HMNS offers this tour on a regular basis, but it doesn’t. According to a friend of mine who works there (hi, Ruth!), it only happens every so often, usually in conjunction with an opening or update. So keep your eye on this page to keep track of all of the upcoming behind-the-scenes tours the museum has to offer.

 

De Beers Enters the Lab-Grown Diamond Game with Lightbox

The jewelry world was jolted awake the Tuesday after Memorial Day when De Beers announced its entry into the lab-grown diamond industry. The company’s new jewelry brand, Lightbox, will feature stud earrings and pendants set with lab-grown diamonds in white, light blue or light pink. Customers will be able to choose from sterling silver, 10k rose gold-plated silver or 10k white gold settings. Eventually, more diamond colors will be added.

Blue and pink diamond earrings and pendants.
A selection of Lightbox jewelry. I’d be very curious to see the colors in real life. Y’all know how I get about fancy colored diamonds. Photo courtesy of Lightbox.

Touting a simple pricing method and what De Beers says is increased wearability for all ages due to a lower price point, the company, which at one time controlled 90% of the world’s natural diamond manufacturing and distribution, has sent out shock waves with the launch. Not only has De Beers spent the past few years supporting the diamond industry’s Real is Rare ad campaign, but the pricing of Lightbox’s lab-grown diamonds undercuts competitors’ lab-grown diamond pricing by as much as 75%. That’ll be $800 per carat retail. Surprise! And, ouch.

But let’s rewind for a moment so I can jog your memory. Come back in time with me to the 1990s, when De Beers had some of the most influential television ads out there. Check out the one below.

Effective, right? At least it was back then. The romance! That music! But sometime between Prince Charles putting a sapphire ring on it and when everyone realized the De Beers-advertised two months’ salary rule was a myth, interest in diamond alternatives grew. As lab-grown diamonds have become easier and cheaper to produce, an industry has sprouted up, piquing the interest of many potential consumers for whom the natural diamond industry leaves a bad taste in their mouths (or a hole in their wallets). De Beers has produced lab-grown diamonds for industrial use for years, but had never expressed interest in expanding that part of their business.

Which brings us back to Lightbox. Much of its marketing toes the line between promoting the product as desirable and categorizing it squarely in the fashion space. It’s something you wouldn’t mind taking (or losing) on vacation, for “birthdays and beach days and just because days.” The Lightbox slogan seems to be “moments, not milestones.” Natural diamonds are heirlooms; lab-grown diamonds are not. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Women frolic on beach wearing Lightbox jewelry.
MILLENNIAL SPOTTING: A group of young women frolic on the beach wearing Lightbox jewelry. Photo courtesy of Lightbox.

Do you see what De Beers is doing here? By marketing lab-grown diamonds as beautiful but downmarket baubles appropriate for a teenager while maintaining the superiority of natural diamonds for milestones such as an engagement or anniversary, they are attempting to further separate, and dominate, two markets. Divide and conquer, if you will! De Beers wants to shake up the lab-grown diamond industry by preventing customers from considering them for an important piece of jewelry, such as an engagement ring. It’s a strategic choice to set Lightbox pieces in silver, plated gold or 10k gold. (The standard for fine jewelry is 14-18k solid gold or platinum).  They want to maintain and strengthen their presence in the natural diamond industry by emphasizing what they say is natural diamonds’ superiority and rarity. After all, De Beers still invests quite a lot more in natural diamonds than in lab-grown diamonds.

It appears that De Beers’ end goal with Lightbox is to have their cake and eat it, too. Only time will tell if their methods will pay off. What do you think of the Lightbox brand? Do you have any opinions on natural vs. lab-grown diamonds? Let me know in the comments!

A Chat with Ippolita Rostagno of Ippolita

I was heavily focused on my Asiago cheese bagel during a Saturday morning sales meeting when it was announced that Ippolita Rostagno would be making a personal appearance at the store.

*Record scratch* Wait, WHAT? The fabulous half-Italian, half-American, Florence-born artist, jewelry designer and all around Renaissance woman would be coming to Zadok? I put my bagel down and tried to calm my inner fan girl. It takes a lot to make me stop eating my bagel during a sales meeting, but this was big news.

Ippolita Rostagno makes some of the most wearable, versatile and comfortable fine fashion jewelry out there. She launched her eponymous line, Ippolita (pronounced eeh-POH-lee-tah), in 1999 when Bergdorf Goodman in New York agreed to place a few pieces in one of their display windows.

A selection of Ippolita's signature gold and gemstone bangles.
A selection of Ippolita gold and gemstone bangles.

She met a need that most designers didn’t know existed: fine jewelry women could wear every day, not just on special occasions. As Rostagno is fond of saying, her pieces are “cool enough to covet, and classic enough to keep.” The rest is history.

I approached her with some trepidation the day of the Ippolita trunk show. I had no idea what she would be like, or if she would want to answer my questions. But I shouldn’t have worried. Rostagno’s preternaturally calm presence and serene, knowing blue eyes immediately put me at ease. Below are excerpts from our conversation.

AH: You have several women in senior positions at Ippolita, including your chief commercial officer. How important is it to you to have women filling these senior roles?

IR: Well, I would say it’s very important because this is a product that is designed by a woman. It’s for women and meant for women, and women are much more sensitive to every single aspect of the design, manufacture and sale of a product that’s meant for women. At one point I think I maybe had only one singular man in the whole company [laughs], and then we eventually diversified a little bit more just for the company culture. But honestly, it’s better if you have women because women understand every single thing about it because they are the customer.

Ippolita Rostagno at Zadok Jewelers
Ippolita Rostagno wearing her signature black feathers during her trunk show and personal appearance at Zadok.

AH: Next year is the 20th anniversary of your brand. How do you feel about reaching this milestone, and is there anything special in the works? Maybe an anniversary collection?

IR: Yeah, I’m going back to basics. That’s one of the things that these 20 years have taught me. There’s a reason that people responded to your brand in the first place. Your unique vision and your particular point of view is what other people find valuable and communicates something interesting. I’m a big fan of making a product that is relevant, and [as for] the commercial aspect of being in business, it takes a lot of trust for somebody to, you know, plunk down the money, essentially [laughs]. They really have to believe that you have a vision that has staying power. After 20 years I think I can say okay, now it’s clear to me, too.

You know, clearly, at the beginning, you don’t know what your vision is. You don’t know what your aesthetic is. And your aesthetic is 20 years of editing and editing and editing and editing. And peeling off the things that are not really core. Now I have a true understanding of where I exist in the world in terms of an aesthetic, in terms of having built, you know, a craft language. And so for the 20th anniversary, I am looking forward in a sense to sort of re-crafting that message in a core way that everybody — you know, because there are a lot of new adopters who sort of missed the trajectory of the brand.

Ippolita Rostagno poses next to Abby Haun
Ippolita Rostagno and yours truly. I’m wearing an Ippolita Silver necklace and earrings. The stones are turquoise with bronze under clear quartz. Rostagno wears Ippolita pieces in yellow gold and mother of pearl. Photo: Tim Ewasko

AH: Myself included! Because when you first started it was just metal, right? And you came to the stones later? 

IR: Yes. Yeah, just metal. For the first six years, it was just metal. And it was just gold. Because I come from a sculpture craft background, not a jewelry background. So I needed to learn the job, you know, so I learned on the job. But it was a different time, too. The category of fine fashion jewelry didn’t even exist, you know? In many ways I pioneered this transition and now there is a whole world in this fashion fine jewelry category that didn’t really exist at all before. There have been a lot of changes, but even though there have [been], I think that there are a lot of things that are very core to what I did at the beginning that are valid and evergreen, and in some ways need to be re-narrated.

AH: You come from an artistic background and live what many would consider an unconventional life. Do you have any advice for people who come from a more rigid background and are afraid to take the steps toward the unconventional life that they truly want to live?

IR: You know, I would say that nowadays you don’t even really have a choice, meaning the world is shifting. Everything is shifting [from] the way that you knew it. I mean, this concept that you start in the mail room and end in the boardroom is no longer viable. And so, even the concept of spending your life at a single company doesn’t really exist. Therefore, I think it’s challenging even if you want to follow a traditional path, to figure out what to do.

But my life experience, I think, has taught me that no matter what you pick, it’s difficult. Even if you pick a quote-unquote normal path, be a lawyer, be a whatever, you still have to find your place in the firm, you still have to find your place in the world, you still have to find your place in the niche of what you’re doing, and it’s not easy. So, therefore, you might as well pick something that you are really passionate about because it takes so much work to sustain that interest over the course of a lifetime that you’re better off. You’re better served for your soul to pick something that you enjoy doing because you’re going to be doing it long and hard for a long time [laughs].

So I really think, you know, don’t wait to jump ship. You know, just let me do something quote-unquote easy, like going to work for somebody, if that’s not really what you want to do. Try to get into the field you’re interested in quickly because you’re going to fail repeatedly. But failure is the same thing as learning. You’re going to learn a lot, you know, so that’s my advice. Yeah.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.