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August 2016 – Squash Blossom Blog
Designer Jewelry and Art in Vail Village and Colorado Springs
Many people point out pieces of jewelry in our store and ask, “what’s that stone?” More often than not, the answer is labradorite–a lesser known stone with mystical personality.
Labradorite has the tendency to catch people’s eye because of its curious bluish-grey color and flashes of blue and green. The play of color has been appropriately deemed “labradorescence”, which comes off in lustrous metallic tints. One variety of labradorite, spectrolite, is defined by its richer display of color (including yellows and reds) and darker base.
Named after the peninsula of Labrador in Canada where it was originally discovered by Moravian missionaries in 1770, Labradorite is now found all over the world from Canada to Australia, Mexico, Madagascar, Russia and the United States.
Labradorite is a member of the Feldspar group, along with moonstone, which it is commonly confused with. The trade name for some labradorite is “blue rainbow moonstone,” though it is actually not moonstone at all.
According to ancient Inuit folklore, the Northern Lights were once trapped on the rocks along the coast of Labrador. One day a warrior broke open the rocks with his spear and freed the lights, but not all of them escaped. Therefore, they still glow with the colors of the Aurora Borealis. If anything, this gives an excellent picture of the color flashes in the stone.
“Labradorite stands out because it looks unique from all angles as different colors present themselves,” says one sales associate at the Squash Blossom, “Many designers use it because it has a beauty all its own.”
See the Squash Blossom’s collection of labradorite here.
There’s something unique about the character of ILA jewelry that draws in those who wear it. It is simple, yet it appears ornate. It is delicate, yet it makes a statement. Part of the magic of ILA, lies in the story behind its creators, and the passion with which they design their jewelry.
Ila Draksharam and her brother, Vikas Sodhani, started the popular jewelry line out of their shared desire to return to their family’s roots. Draksharam had worked closely with her mother, who had graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T), from a young age.
Throughout her childhood she was exposed to textiles and jewelry, and in her adulthood she spent eight years designing high-end diamond jewelry with her mother and father. Sodhani followed a much different path. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T), he pursued a career in engineering. However, he always had a fascination with design and shortly after graduating he left engineering and went to India, home of his family’s ancestors. Here, he spent a year training in Indian design houses and hand fabrication shops. Draksharam later met up with him in hopes of developing a shared vision to embrace their family’s heritage.
This heritage traces to Rajasthan, geographically the largest state in India, which houses the vast Thar desert. Rajasthan has a long history from ancient civilizations to medieval tribes to modern empires. The area comprises of astonishing architecture, known as Maru-Gurjara architecture, that is highlighted in large temples and palaces. Umaid Bhawan Palace, in the city of Jodhpur, is one of the largest palaces in the world. Its structure and design exemplifies the intricate and handcrafted nature of the Maru-Gurhara architecture that inspires ILA.
“Growing up, our family would travel back to Rajasthan to visit our ancestral residence, known as a ‘Haveli,'” the design team explains, “It has stood for over 200 hundred years and seen the birthing of our father, his father and the rest of our paternal ancestors. The Haveli has stood through a number of different rulers and eras, and captures the rich history and cultural traditions of India. It is a place enchanted by history, mysticism and beauty.”
In addition to the structural designs of Rajasthan, designers would paint ornate frescoes onto walls of buildings. Often, they would depict scenes from mythology in bright colors and stones.
Draksharam and Sodhani described the paintings found in their own ancestral Haveli: “Most stunning were the frescoes that lined the open-air courtyard in the center of the grand house. As children, our grandfather would recount tales of ancient Indian mythology that were painted in the frescoes dotting the meticulously detailed archways that connected one edifice to another.
Each edifice was carved with the most skilled hand to tell stories of long ago. The carvings were adorned with inlaid stones, and it seemed the jewelers truly did the detailing in the building.”
In creating ILA, Draksharam and Sodhani aimed to put as much careful thought and meaning into their jewelry as the jewelers did in the Havelis in Rajasthan. However, in order to enable modern people from all over the world to wear their jewelry daily, they simplify their designs. While retaining the impact of Indian artistry, their jewelry expounds on the simple beauty of one design detail.
“Those trips to India created a foundation of appreciation for minute details, beautiful stones, handwork and curved lines. We learned that together those elements told a story in themselves,” they remarked. “Some 15 years later, after a long trip through India, we came together from opposite ends of the country to create ILA in hopes of capturing a part of our family’s heritage that we saw and imagined together.”
ILA jewelry is available at the Squash Blossom. Visit our collection here.
Last winter, jewelry designer Sarah Graham made a move as bold as her jewelry line. Growing restless in her current studio location, San Francisco, she headed to Colorado in search of inspiration. What she intended to be a temporary retreat in the mountains turned into a significant life-change.
“I decided to take some time to indulge in wanderlust with my family this [past] winter. I allowed myself to ‘get lost’ in nature, and in no time at all, inspiration found me!” Graham said. Shortly after her time in the mountains, Graham decided to move to Colorado permanently. She now resides just outside of Aspen. “Spending time with my family, and time in the outdoors, has given me a chance to develop a new and innovative collection.”
The stark contrast of the spots on the bark of aspen trees inspired her new collection, the appropriately titled “Aspen” line. Working in 18 karat yellow, white, and rose gold, as well as her signature blackened cobalt chrome, “Aspen” seeks to reflect the same color variations as the trees that are so plentiful in Colorado.
“The quiet, yet magnificent, glory of the Aspen tree overwhelmed me,” Graham reflected, “The beauty of the Aspen tree gets more intense with time. It can only be obtained by years of growth and exposure to the elements. As with my own journey, the beauty of my jewelry increases with time and exposure to life.”
Graham’s life-inspired designs and textures highlight how beauty, in its many forms, can be found all around us. Her innovative use of metals blends nature with creativity, giving her fans and collectors from all over the country, and especially from Colorado, much to look forward to as she continues to stretch herself as an artist.
Squash Blossom got this exclusive interview with now Colorado-based jewelry designer Sarah Graham.
Sarah Graham has created a unique look combining her love of science and her fascination with nature. Having just moved from San Francisco to Colorado, her natural inspiration varies from the sea to the mountains. The blackened cobalt chrome in her designs pairs well with 18 karat white, yellow, and rose gold to create an industrial color contrast while celebrating natural textures and shapes.
SB: Was there a turning point in your life that led you to jewelry design? SG: It was just after my college graduation, and I just taken an entry level job at a brokerage house. I wandered into a jewelry store/pawn shop to inquire about having a piece of jewelry made for a sister’s Christmas gift. The process brought me back to the store a half a dozen times, and by the end I had quit my job to wash the jewelers windows in exchange for jewelry making lessons. Fortunately he moved me to manager within a couple months, and Saturdays were spent learning the basics at the bench.
Sarah Graham’s Munsteiner Rutilated Quartz Pendant and Cuff
SB: Is there a piece that you sold that you wish you had kept for yourself?
SG: I used to exhibit alongside Altelier Munstiener, the famous German stone cutter. One year I went a little crazy and bought some truly amazing stones without a clue of what I would do with them. I showed them to one of my best clients and he commissioned me to make a gorgeous cuff for himself and a pendant for his daughter. The stones were both remarkable rutilated quartz, and almost impossible to repeat – the cross in particular – I have been searching for another for years to no avail…but they are in a good home where they are appreciated, so that makes me happy!
SB: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?
SG: Creating a job for myself that I truly love and still feel passionate about.
SB: Who is a fellow jewelry designer that you admire? Why?
SG: Atelier Zobel, for their fearless and unique approach to design.
SB: Name 5 things you cannot live without.
Good quality loose leaf green tea
A pair of earrings to brighten my face and my mood
My Temperpedic mattress
A Pilates class at least once a week
My son’s smile
Honestly I could live without everything except that last one!
SB: What other career would you pursue if you did not design jewelry?
SG: I would love to be a writer. I have always been a voracious reader, I appreciate good writing, and enjoy the little bit of writing that my current job requires. I and am counting on this being my next career when I am too old to make jewelry. Ideally I will do this from a villa in Italy!
SB: Finish this statement: When I’m not making/designing jewelry, I am…
SG: Being a mom to my son, Strummer. This involves lots of time at the park and library. On Thursdays we used to go to a place called Spazio Italiano where we learned Italian together…not surprising, his Italian is much better than mine. Kids learn languages so much more easily than adults!
You can learn more about Sarah Graham at her website. Shop our current collection of her jewelry here.