During an annual yoga retreat to India seventeen years ago, an instructor showed Vasant some stones. The instructor then suggested that she design a necklace out of sapphires and Vasant created her own jewelry for the first time. “I fell in love with this simple sapphire necklace, everyone asked me about it over and over. People were literally stopping me on the street to ask about it,” she said. This triggered her love of gemstones. When she returned to India for the yoga retreat the following year, she designed more jewelry and upon her return to the States, they sold rapidly. In each piece, Vasant is inspired by nature and wants to supply beauty for her customers.
Born in England, but residing in Santa Barbara, California, Vasant considers herself a citizen of the world. Her global travels are obvious in her world-inspired pieces. India is the source of most of her inspirations, but her work has also been described as having a revived ancient and Roman quality. Vasant’s original career path involved the healing arts, spiritual counseling, and body work. She also works as a yoga instructor in addition to her jewelry design. She likes to say, “I didn’t choose jewelry, jewelry chose me.”
Vasant is known for her unique color combinations and always strives to bring the right stone to the right woman. She says women usually know which stone is right for them. She believes in the healing aspects of stones and says when women are drawn to a color, they are really choosing the stone that has the appropriate qualities she needs at that point in her life. For instance, someone trying to heal a broken heart might choose rose quartz.
Above all, Vasant’s main goal is to create beauty. She defines beauty as, “When you’re standing in nature and it takes your breath away. It helps human beings when Mother Nature exposes herself in the colorful ocean, changing landscape, and even beneath the ground where you find incredible gems, that I use to make my jewelry.” The stunning stones that she uses exemplify the power and beauty of nature. She says, “people are looking for the things that help them and bring beauty into their lives. All artists want to create art in the world that will be remembered, to create something that brings beauty.” Most of her pieces are one-of-a-kind and an important staple of each owner’s collection. Stop by the Squash Blossom to see which piece is calling you.
Kathy Beekman is a soft pastel painter whose work emerges from the West and Midwest countrysides, she lives in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where her home and studio are perched at 8,600 feet. “The vastness of the natural landscape here inspires my work. My paintings reflect how I think and feel about my environment.”
She grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a small city surrounded by the farming communities that continuously inspire her subject matter: the barns, clouds, open spaces and streams that conjure up idealized versions of the landscapes she experienced as a child. We were lucky enough to speak with the artist herself and ask her a little about her work and process.
When do you feel most compelled to create, what puts you in the mood, is there a creative ritual you go through?
“When creating in the studio I only create in the morning. My painting days are scheduled throughout the month and this way I can prepare (aka psyche myself up/get into the zen zone) beginning the evening before. The evening before my painting day, I prepare my painting table by laying out the sized paper I will paint on as well as laying out my pastels. The next morning, after breakfast, I head straight to the studio and start in on the painting.”
What made you gravitate to the medium of pastels?
“During college, I took a drawing class in which we experimented with pastel. I fell in love with it immediately because of its immediacy and vibrancy in color. It also doesn’t stink and is easily transported.”
Is there anything you hope your audience leaves with after viewing your work?
“It is up to the viewer to create their own stories about the various Beekmans they view. If they create their own story then they have connected with the painting and the painting has therefore become a success.”
Storywheels are an elegant, creative way to mark milestones in your life. The Squash Blossom has customers with over fifty Storywheels. The Storywheels company has spanned four generations. Their mission is to celebrate life and inspire their customers. With offices in New York City, Bangkok, and Hong Kong, the company strives to drive the jewelry industry. All gemstones are sourced directly from mines and cut within the company.
The birth of a child or grandchild is a monumental occasion in one’s life. Storywheels understands this and offers birth wheels, some of our best-selling wheels. Longtime customer, Susan Thomas said, “I have a large collection of Storywheels. All are beautiful, but the ones with the most meaning to me are the birthwheels.” She has a wheel with garnet, the January birthstone, to remember the birth of her daughter and a citrine wheel, the November birthstone, to commemorate the birth of her son. She also has a growing list of grandchildren and adds a wheel for each one. “I started with a blue topaz wheel for my first granddaughter. Now I also have an emerald wheel for my grandson and an aquamarine wheel for my second granddaughter. I am expecting another grandchild this year and I can’t wait to add another birth wheel. I love looking down and seeing the symbols of all my family,” she said.
Aside from births, there are plenty of other events that you can commemorate with Storywheels. Sara Jones used to live in Texas so she purchased a dangle with the state of Texas. Eleanor Danielles, completed a sailing trip around the Caribbean and got an anchor dangle to remember that event. Beloved pets are also celebrated through the Storywheels. Sally Prunty expressed, “My family is not complete without our cat. We adopted her as a rescue kitten and I bought a cat dangle to celebrate her induction into our family.” Anniversaries are also a favorite amongst our customers. Kim Cruz has wheels in honor of her marriage, one-year anniversary, and five-year anniversary. “This year, my husband and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary and I asked him to get me the tenth anniversary Storywheel to celebrate.”
Storywheels make the perfect gift for birthdays or holidays for avid collectors. There are wheels of sports, animals, celestial themes, holidays, and hobbies. Jan Robertson stated, “I always get so excited when I see a Squash Blossom box on special occasions. I know that it is another wonderful addition to my growing collection.” Her husband Bill added, “It is great knowing that I can always count on Storywheels to be a valued, appropriate gift. Her face always lights up when she receives a new wheel.” It’s not too late to start a Storywheel collection. Consider giving a loved one her first Storywheel and begin the exciting journey of celebrating a life.
Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, love is in the air; it must be wedding season! We all enjoy witnessing the beautiful ceremony of devotion and love. However, with the save the date comes the dreaded question…what to give the lucky groom and bride to be? Fear not, we are here to help.
Nambé provides the perfect solution to your woes. This line embodies a simple elegance and is the perfect home accent or serveware as it fits seamlessly into any aesthetic preference. Nambé’s famous 9 metal alloy creates a bold modern look and its clean lines are effortlessly modern. Their deep acacia wood paired with the stunning metal is striking and is the perfect unique gift for couples who enjoy hosting. Provide the people you love with timeless functional pieces they and their new family will enjoy for years to come. Who knows, they might even invite you to supper!
Italian designer Federica Rettore does not find interest in making jewelry that is traditional or cute. Rather, she is passionate about transforming her life experiences into wearable sculptures.
This philosophy explains her incredibly unique style, and her pieces that clearly reflect the world around her.
Federica Rettore has a background in sculpture and considers each piece of jewelry a “small sculpture to wear and never take off.” Her cuffs especially, made of Zebu horn, are unique pieces of art that set Rettore apart from other designers. “Each has it’s own story,” she said in an interview, “And for those who wear these cuffs too. Due to nuances in the natural horn patterns, each piece is one of a kind and so each customer has a piece like no other.”
One of a kind pieces are Rettore’s specialty. Many of her pieces may look similar but have variations in the stones or other materials used. She is known for heat-treating steal and shaping it into pieces inspired by nature, including mollusk shells and peach pits. The, ocean in particular, inspires her.
Rettore spends every August with her family on the island of Sardinia. Here, she draws inspiration from natural materials such as coral, sea-worn rock, and mollusks. “We spend many hours of the day on our boat enjoying the rock formations of the sea walls,” she said,
“In the evening, as the sun sets, the sky turns a beautiful shade of gold and red. The stone walls around the sea glow with color.”
Her jewelry reflects the dynamic colors and textures in and around the ocean. As a jewelry designer, she aims to do more than make jewelry that’s merely fashionable or pretty. “How can we frame the sound of the sea? How can we tie to the finger the joy of living? Or how can we . . . make out of each jewel a perfect match with art and nature?” These deeper questions lead Rettore to create elegant, original pieces that women can treasure their entire lives.
Irene Neuwirth, the famed jewelry designer who has captured the hearts of everyday people and celebrities alike, is known for her creative use of colorful gemstones and fanciful settings. On any red carpet, you are sure to see some of her pieces. To get to know her on a personal level a little better, we got this exclusive interview with her in 2014.
SB: Describe the first piece of jewelry you made that you were proud of. IN: My 9 drops. Still a classic.
SB: Was there a turning point in your life that led you to jewelry design? IN: Yes. When my family sat me down to explain to me that reaching horseback riding was not going to be my future.
SB: Is there a piece that you sold that you wish you had kept for yourself? IN: Yes. My favorite opal necklace.
SB: Describe a dream design that you haven’t made yet.
IN:Carved horse necklace. I mean… Why not? It is the year of the horse!
SB: What other career would you pursue if you did not design jewelry? IN: Wow. I don’t know. I really love what I do and feel so incredibly lucky and happy!
SB: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date? IN: Ooh. That’s a tough one. Being nominated for a CFDA [Council of Fashion Designers of America] award.
SB: Name your most treasured possession.
IN: My Labradoodle. He feels like more of my family though than a possession.
SB: Name 5 things that you could not live without. IN:
My Labradoodle teddy
My facials with Cristina Radu
My dear friends
My wonderful home
SB: Finish this statement: When I’m not making/designing jewelry, I am…
IN: Cooking, spending time with friends, walking dog, reading…
SB: What is your motto?
IN: Work hard… Nothing comes easy!
See our collection of Irene Neuwirth on our website.
When Mark Alexander started Peyote Bird in 1973, it was less of a business and more of a leap of faith. Having just graduated from college at the University of Denver with a degree in economics, he had little idea of what to do with his life. At the time, Native American jewelry was becoming very popular and he had a noticeable attraction to it. So when he went on a road trip with a friend to Mexico in his old Volkswagen bug with only $300 in his pocket, he decided to stop at a Native American reservation in New Mexico on his way back to buy some jewelry.
Upon return, he sold the pieces he bought on an old Navajo rug at the University of Denver. It was a huge success, so he buckled down and decided to do the business for real. Now after 40 years of success, including working with accounts such as Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, and Sundance, Alexander reflects on his legacy.
“When I first began driving across the country selling Southwestern jewelry in 1973, I never imagined that Peyote Bird Designs would become what it is today—a global company supplying major retailers all over the United States,” he stated on his website. “What is important to me now is keeping the same values I learned as a small business person—open communication, investment in the success of both employees and clients, and production of artistic, high-quality jewelry that I am proud of.” He now plans to pass those values on to his daughter, along with the business.
Watch Alexander tell his story below and visit our online collection of Native American jewelry on our website.
Starting as an admirer of her grandmother’s jewelry box and emerging as an award-winning jewelry designer, Preville has become known for her use of 18 karat gold set with white brilliant diamonds and accented with milgrain and hand-engraving.
Her contemporary yet antique-inspired designs offer a fresh take on gold and diamond jewelry.
Preville has long been familiar with the world of design. She comes from two generations of female artists. “My mother was an artist, an interior designer and an antique dealer. My grandmother painted Art Nouveau motifs on Limoges porcelain,” Preville explained in an interview with Jewelstreet, “Art and creativity surrounded me as a child.”
As she grew older, Preville gained a fine art degree and took up designing jewelry as a hobby.
She sold custom-made pieces to her family and friends. “What started out as a hobby turned into a business,” Preville said, “Word started to spread about my designs and I went on to win the 1978 Jewelers of America New Designer of the Year Award. I always had big dreams, but never thought that 40 years later I’d have an international brand.”
Her success results from the time and thoughtfulness she puts into her pieces, as well as the quality materials she uses to make them. Drawing inspiration from different cultures and time periods, Preville utilizes a variety of techniques to create jewelry that is both fashionable and feminine.
“The historical influences on my collections span from Imperial Russia to Byzantine, Raj to Art Deco. I study past and present cultures and ancient civilisations, along with nature, the arts and fashion. I romance these elements, making them feel fresh for a contemporary woman.”
For Preville, romance is key. “To me, jewelry is the ultimate expression of love,” she concluded. “It expresses a woman’s personality and has a sentimental value like no other luxury item.” Indeed, a piece Penny Preville jewelry is the perfect gift, as well the perfect memory of time spent in Vail.
Love is in the air. Whether you need a gift for a girlfriend, wife, mother, daughter, or grandmother, you are sure to find the perfect gift at the Squash Blossom this Valentine’s Day. And we carry men’s jewelry too. Whoever you are buying for, we have jewelry in a range of affordable prices that is sure to say, “I love you”. We’ve listed out a few designers for you below to give you some ideas.
The jewelry of Annie Fensterstock deftly blends a mastery of ancient goldsmithing techniques with dynamic design.
Peter Schmid says, “It is love that provides me with the courage to fully embrace a concept and develop the design patiently, giving it the time to mature, or to suggest and give way to another idea. Love is the beginning.”
Jamie Wolf works with what is classically beautiful and articulates it with a sophisticated edge.
Rooted in ancient traditions, Alex Sepkus jewelry is modern art that can be worn with ease.
When asked about how his love and obsession with jewelry began, Mattia Cielo said, “It is a destiny, a call that you must embrace.” His jewelry represents how he has embraced his calling so fully, and inspires his many admirers to do the same.
Diamonds are the most sought-after and highly valued gemstones in the world. Their beauty, rarity–and, not to mention, hype–has set them apart in the gemstone world. Some diamonds, however, are marvels of their kind. Whether for their beauty, size, or history, these five diamonds have been noted as the most spectacular and famous diamonds of all time.
The Dresden Green Diamond
Weighing in at 41 carats, this diamond is remarkable for its exquisite color, as well as its size and its near flawlessness. It gained its bright, apple green color from its exposure to natural radioactive materials. Of mysterious origin, the Dresden Green Diamond is thought to have come from the Kollur mine in Andhra Pradesh, India. The earliest known record of the diamond is from 1742 when Augustus III of Poland purchased it at the Leipzig Fair from a Dutch merchant. It was soon after placed into an ornate hat ornament, which is the setting in which it still rests today.
The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond is an extremely rare gem with a complex history. The GIA describes it as 45.52 carats and “fancy deep grayish blue in color.” If it is exposed to ultraviolet light for even a short time it emits a brilliant red phosphorescence for some time afterwards, glowing in the dark.
This scientific effect from boron and nitrogen within the stone has given scientists much greater understanding of how diamonds are formed in the earth. It also has, historically, lent to the idea that the diamond is cursed, though it is believed that rumors of the diamond’s curse have been bolstered in order to increase the value of the already extraordinarily precious stone.
The stone’s history is long and adventurous. The Hope Diamond is said to have originated in India where a French gem-merchant named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier bought it in a larger cut than it is today. He deemed it the “Tavernier Blue” or the “French Blue” and sold it to King Louis XIV in 1668. King Louis XIV cut the stone and set it into a cravat-pin. His great-grandson, King Louis XV, later reset it into a more elaborate pin. The diamond was then passed to King Louis XVI, husband to Marie Antoinette.
During the French Revolution, a group of thieves broke into the Royal Storehouse and stole it, among the rest of the royal jewels, in a looting spree lasting five days. While many of the rest of the Royal jewels were recovered after, the “French Blue” was not.
The definitive stone then disappeared until 1830, when a rich London banker named Thomas Hope acquired a cut version of it, calling it the “Hope Diamond.” Since then it has changed hands several times until it was acquired by Harry Winston, who later donated it to the Smithsonian Museum. Today, you can still see the Hope Diamond on display there.
Cullinan I, or the Star of Africa
The Cullinan diamond was the largest rough-cut gem-quality diamond ever discovered. Before being cut, it weighed 3,106.75 carats. It was discovered in 1905 in what is now South Africa, in a mine belonging to Thomas Cullinan (hence the name).
The rough diamond was presented to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom before being cut into nine major pieces, each named after the mine owner. Joseph Asscher, known for the legendary Asscher cut, was given the task of cutting the diamonds. The diamond was also cut into 96 minor stones, which were used in various other less substantial pieces.
Cullinan I was the largest cut out of the rough diamond, weighing 530.2 carats. It is the second largest cut and polished diamond in the world, and the first largest clear cut and polished diamond in the world. Today, it is set in the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and rests with the United Kingdom’s crown jewels in the Tower of London.
The DeYoung Red Diamond
The DeYoung Red Diamond is an incredibly rare diamond because of its deep red color (slightly tinted brown) and lack of chemical impurities. Red diamonds are the rarest of all diamonds and few have been documented. The DeYoung Red was purchased by Sydney DeYoung, a Boston jewelry seller, in the early-mid 1900’s. He purchased it on a hat pin as a part of an estate jewelry collection. He and the seller had mistaken it for a garnet because of it’s rich red color. Upon inspection, however, DeYoung realized it had unusual characteristics for a garnet. It had a strange appearance and it had incredible durability considering its age. He took to a lab to be tested and discovered that it was actually a red diamond.
To this day, the DeYoung diamond remains the third largest red diamond at 5.03 carats (the largest is 5.11 carats). It is the only red diamond on display to the public, as it was donated to the Smithsonian after DeYoung’s death in 1986. When it arrived to the Smithsonian in 1987, it arrived though the mail in an uninsured box. It now rests behind bulletproof glass, as it is one of the rarest diamonds in the world.
The Spoonmaker’s Diamond
The Spoonmaker’s Diamond is a pear-shaped, clear 86 carat diamond surrounded by 49 old mine cut diamonds. It is housed in the Imperial Treasury exhibitions at the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. The history of how the diamond arrived at the Topkapi Palace has long been lost and is now shrouded with legend.
The most prominent legend tells of a poor fisherman who was walking along the beach in Istanbul when he came across a shiny stone in a pile of others. He picked it up and turned it over in his multiple times before pocketing it. Days later, he stopped into a jeweler’s market and showed it to the first jeweler he came across. The jeweler glanced at and shrugged it off, insisting it was glass. However, expressing him pity, he offered to take it off the fisherman’s hands for three spoons. The fisherman was disappointed but felt that the jeweler was showing him a kindness, so he accepted the offer. He left, leaving the stone and taking the spoons with him. The jeweler later sold what we know to be the Spoonmaker’s diamond to the vizier of the Sultan.
While this account may or may not be true, the legend reveals how the diamond got its unusual name. Like many other exceptional diamonds, the story is as fascinating as the stone itself.
“Diamonds in Modern Brilliant Cut” photo by Mario Sarto is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
“DeYoung Red diamond from the Museum of Natural History” photos by MBisanz are licensed under CC BY 3.0.
“The Big Diamond of the Topkapi Palace Museum” photo by Harry Gouvas is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 01 Jan. 2017.
Schumann, Walter. Gemstones of the world. 5th ed. New York: Sterling, 2002. Print.