WALKING & TALKING (TO MYSELF): GIFTS, part I

walking and talking

As 2018 winds down, I’m contemplating changes I made back in January which have had a profound impact on me this year.

First, I began walking the 2.5 mile R/T length of the commercial street in my neighborhood. I walk solo, and keep stops or talking to a minimum. I’ve done this daily since January, and hold this time sacred as my time to just THINK – not about work, chores, To-Do lists, or concerns – just conscious, intentional time for pondering.

I call it BRAINCATION.

Second, I turned off my radio. All day, every day, cold turkey, OFF. No more NPR, no more Terry Gross (sob), no more music. The only thing I allow is Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations, on repeat (the ’55 version with his commentary and humming). A quick calculation reveals I’ve probably listened to it over a thousand times this year. And with good reason: the effect it has on me is like listening to stunningly beautiful math explained; my work is more focused and precise when it’s on. A musical meditation.

I’ve found that – slowly – over the course of the year, these practices allow me to better connect with my waking body, the day’s weather, the community around me. The increased attentiveness and clarity makes me feel more able to discern when to say yes vs when to say no and which people/events feed and inspire me vs which drain me, also to hear what resonates vs what rings hollow.

The new-found quiet feels like listening to life on a different frequency. When you aren’t distracting yourself with information 24/7 (yes, even very smart, interesting information – (lookin’ at you, T Gross) you’re forced to think about the things you usually allocate to a back burner.  It pushes you down a more direct path through your own STUFF. For me, new cues form a better understanding of what it means to be a working artist in today’s money-centric world. The 24/7 media mantra siren call ‘MORE! FASTER!’ is best; ‘LESS… SLOWER’ is, well, less. And slower. The race to Keep up!, Speed up!, Buy!, Sell!! eventually just dulls the mind & stirs mental fog. For the time being I choose to TUNE IT ALL OUT.

WHEW. Srsly, I feel better already just writing this.

The good news is this new path has led me towards incredible art/artists, all of whom speak a common truth and a unified message:  love for craft, respect for the gift, power in collaboration, importance of community /service.  Here, just a few to share.

MISS TANGQ This mystical & wise multi-media artist, aNiMa collaborator, and writer of spiritual, soulful monthly readings eloquently outlines the importance of Emptiness.

‘Westerners tend to think of emptiness as absence and lack. In the eastern context, emptiness is the essential source of being. In Daoism the metaphor of bowls, baskets and barrels are essential. These objects represent strength on the outside with great receptivity at the core. Emptiness is an openness to life, universal energy and the source’.

Absence as open space becoming a cauldron for creativity = clear mind, clear potential.

RYAN COOGLER Local treasure CFI (the California Film Institute) recently hosted a screening w the Black Panther director who, in the Q&A following the film talked about creativity, collaboration, and timing. He said he was 100% excited/invested in Fruitvale Station (w its comparatively-miniscule budget) and would never have considered doing Black Panther instead – had it been offered him then – despite its astronomical budget. He prioritizes based on what’s most important to him as an artist, and then surrounds himself with friends who bring ‘A game’ to the table (paraphrasing) to help him successfully accomplish the task.

GIFT Director Robin McKenna has created a loving film tribute to gift-based economies via a trilogy of artists working in different locations around the world. Translating inspiration from Lewis Hyde’s profoundly brilliant 1983 book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Art of Property, a meditation extolling the virtue and value of creativity as gift (vs commodity) in which he explores humanity’s historical & societal relationship to the act of giving and its importance. This book changed my life when I read it a few years back, it in itself is a perfect gift to any artist’s mind.

Listening to them, the common thread running through my own work is revealed: the intent to manifest expressions of LOVE. Celebrations of love for new life, love for oneself / for others, love for merging lives, love for lives no longer with us – this task: putting my full attention on the process of designing and creating precious objects imbued w intention & emotion – it is my great honor, and my life’s work.

Valentine’s Day sale

Small GEM BEES Postcard

In our home, in addition to celebrating Valentine’s Day  we also celebrate Chinese New Year with a few traditional rituals, namely: cleaning the house and sweeping all the floors, cutting our hair -all before midnight, so we sweep away/cut off the new year’s bad luck (and not after midnight, sweeping away/cutting off the new year’s good luck).

As many of you know I’m creating a new line of jewelry in 2018 to include 24K gold micro-mosaic jewelry plus a new oxidized sterling + gold line. For the past several years I’ve done almost exclusively made-to-order bridal work and ceremonial pieces, but I’m excited to now expand my work to include the new lines. As these lines come together, I’ll be transitioning the studio to better accommodate the new work, and selling all remaining stock pieces. Time to sweep them away to new homes! – all prior jewelry pieces will be on sale for 30-50% this next week – so, if you’ve had your eye on something special please do let me know and let’s see about making it yours.

I’ll also have a number of new pieces ready – hot off the presses! – great gifts ideas, including pieces that can be customized with initial stamps in time for the holiday.

Studio hours this weekend will be 3PM – 5PM Sat & Sun, do stop by!

This sale is for clients, friends & family – pls feel free to pass along to your friends, but it is not a public event.

More pix to follow soon!

Wishing you HAPPINESS & LOVE as Valentine’s Day & Chinese New Year approaches ~

 

 

 

 

TOP TEN LIST FOR 2018

 

TOP 10 LIST

Happy Epiphany to you! As the Magi followed the star to present their gifts on the 12th day of Christmas, as numerous other country’s celebrate gift giving traditions around the world (including Italy’s La Befana), this January 6th I too would like to present to you my annual TOP TEN year-in-review list of all-things-wonderful secondo me for your perusal and enjoyment. My hope is it will provide you with new & enriching experiences to feed your soul. I believe in the power of starting each new year with rituals of intention – celebrating with friends I hope to see more of in the coming months, focusing fresh eyes on what I hope the year will bring, and looking back at the past year to recall and record which things felt most memorable.

A word about this list: COMMUNITY

The intention of the list isn’t meant to be ‘pro-consumerism’, rather it’s meant to be a well deserved shout out to some wonderful high quality predominantly local and often women-owned resources or experiences. So, have at it, folks!

This year I’d like to begin by suggesting that if you are able to simplify & slow down – wait – read that one again – SIMPLIFY & SLOW DOWN – you are a rich person indeed. Less, but better. Currently, that is the (north) star that I choose to follow.

*Caveat emptor As always, advance apologies for any incompatibility or disagreement you may experience in accepting one/any/all of the following suggestions.

With that said, let’s begin…

Movies:  The ever-fabulous Mill Valley Film Festival, in its 40th year, provided an embarrassment of riches – a few of my faves were: the near perfect must-see French-Lebanese film The Insult; most incredible opening night Loving Vincent – the world’s first fully oil painted feature film by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman; the scathingly brilliant and heartfelt I, Tonya w 2017 girl-crush Margo Robbie and perennial fave Allison Janney + director + screenwriter in person at The Rafael ; achingly beautiful, controversial love story Call Me By Your Name with magnetic duo Timothee Chalamet & Armie Hammer + the lovely Michael Stulbarg;  Matteo Trancone‘s Arrangiarsi – a humorous & heartfelt journey of self-discovery. Oh yeah, plus pizza. All seen at The California Film Institute – one of the most gratifying and valuable memberships I’ve EVER had.

Also Fraser Bradshaw’s locally grown MVFF offering The Deep Sky with sublime import Luise Helm (aka Scarlet Johannson’s German voice double) and the infinitely watchable Kelechi Nwadibia, which I was honored & thrilled to provide jewelry for (tx, Cari B! costume/wardrobe designer & producer).

New Italian Cinema‘s fascinating Franca: Chaos and Creation Sozzani and her legendary run as Editor-In- Chief of Italian Vogue. An intimate portrait of the woman as told by her son.  (grazie, Cynthia!) It’s available on Netflix instant watch.

Shape of Water Guillermo del Torro’s fantastical adult fairytale of epic imagination and heart – Sally Hawkins and (again!) Michael Stuhlbarg are both nuanced marvels. Alas – beware! no one creates monsters like GdelT.. (shudder)

In Pursuit of Silence “a meditative exploration of our relationship with silence, sound and the impact of noise on our lives” – this film changed me. (tx, Leigh!)

Also HILARIOUS – Rachel Brosnahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime video. A 1950’s NYC housewife swaps her comfortable Upper West Side lifestyle for the gritty Greenwich Village comedy scene.

Books: New: The Power Naomi Alderman’s mind blowingly ingenious novel about an alternative matriarchal history; pleasure read Maile Meloy’s Do Not Become Alarmed, a disturbing pleasure read about adult female cousins who decide to take their families on a cruise over the holidays and the children go missing; Older: Guy Davenport’s insightful 1997 collection of essays Geography of the Imagination; Alan Watts’ 1951 The Wisdom of Insecurity as transcendant as it is slender, an essential read for achieving a more balanced approach to managing one’s mind – joyous – and rife with eerily prescient ruminations on the perils of over-fascination with gadgets..;

Food: Juanita & Maude– the (new) neighborhood joint we’ve all been waiting for.. stylish, comfortable, welcoming environment serving tasty bevvies & chow (tx, Susan F!). Also eagerly awaiting Gold Leaf Cafe on MLK @ University later this month..

Two new second locations: rabidly excited about fave ice cream joint ICI opening on University @ Shattuck; plus Oaktown Spice Shop opening bottom of Solano Ave.

Travel: ITALIA: we drove south to Matera – a Unesco designated site and the 2nd oldest continually inhabited place on earth – since the 10th millenium BC.  – in the heel of Italy’s boot, where we stayed in a CAVE – an amazing discovery – the trip of a lifetime. Also idyllic seaside Otranto, Italy, with its 12th C cathedral and mosaic floor depicting a Tree of Life complete with Garden of Eden, Dante’s Inferno, Alexander the Great, Tower of Babel, the 12 astrological signs, and more etc… also an unrivaled mosaic tour of lovely Ravenna followed by dinner at local fave Ca’ de Ven (musts= la piadina + stinco!).

Arts: Here’s your new fave out-of-town-guest-destination – Berkeley’s long awaited, newly opened Perfume Museum, the fabulous Mandy Aftel’s Archive of Curious Scents.

If you find yourself in search of interesting WORKSHOPS please consider these fabulous women-owned opts: Maria Muscardini’s  Handcraft Studio School in El Cerrito; Stacey, Kristen and Terri at Hello Stitch in Berkeley; Emily Pilloton’s Girl Garage (lock picking!); and a bit further afield (albeit well worth the trip) Vanessa Ambrose’s Cameron Marks in Santa Cruz; and Tammi Macala’s Santa Barbara School of Mosaic Art.

A new find (tx, Barbara B!) – WSJ podcast Secret’s of Wealthy Women Um, yes, pls.

Last but never least – perennial fave (just can’t take it off the list) the best possible resource/repository for all things thoughtful & creative fr the ever-brilliant curiosity seeker Maria Popova – Brainpickings.

Reciproc​ity welcome​d​ & encouraged! ~ let’s spread some good news, people!

~ wishing for you in 2018: clarity, kindness, health, happiness, ABBONDANZA ~

FEEL FREE TO FWD THIS if you know someone who might appreciate it. You can also find me debdurant@instagram.com

(And if you’re receiving this but wish not to – just drop me a note so I can take you off of the list. No judgment, just my apology!)

SOFA, Chicago, IL

mosaic sofa I was both honored and thrilled to be included in the recent Sculptural Objects and Functional Art & Design (SOFA) show in Chicago, IL, in association with the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) group entry submission “100 Moments in Mosaic”. It was a wonderful opportunity to show work in collaboration with 99 other mosaic artists from the organization, showcasing a broad range of skill sets, topics, materials and methods from the collective group.

This was my entry, titled  Andamento / Adamantine

Andamento  Visual flow & direction produced by the placement of rows of tesserae (pieces) within a mosaic.

Adamantine  From the Greek word adamas meaning ‘invincible’, diamond-like (the hardest known mineral), or unbreakable.

Diamond, historically, has been the ceremonial symbol of enduring and eternal love. The use of this beautiful natural resource to celebrate life’s most important connections also carries a sad and tragic irony: diamond mining has also been the cause of much pain and suffering in the world, brought about by greed, avarice and poor environmental stewardship in unfair diamond distribution systems.

Like the merging and diverging tesserae that surround this mosaic diamond, the paths of the many lives touched by diamonds – from the initial South African miner, his community, mine owners, syndicates, cutters & polishers, jewelers, royalty, wealthy socialites, to the average citizen… – are all connected. 

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mosaic by Huguette Quintana

I was especially moved by all the submissions from Puerto Rico’s Atelier Del Mosaico contingency, headed up by studio owner Luis Alberto Rivera, who moved mountains to help each of his studio members finish their mosaics, get them shipped out, and then fly to the show in time, just weeks after braving the devastation of Hurricane Maria. His Herculean show of strength, compassion, creativity, and get-it-done-ness was one of the most inspiring examples of leadership I saw during 2017, setting a beautiful example of how much art can be a healing force during difficult times.

 

New beginnings…

In anticipation of the New Year coming, I’m launching a newly revamped website for 2018. It includes new graphics, a new line of jewelry, my 24K gold micro-mosaic line, and other design-related ventures afoot both professionally and personally.

The newly designed jewelry line includes studies in gold, sterling silver, and brass of cherished objects from nature – star anise pendants or Illicium Verum  – which comes from the Latin illicio meaning “entice” – made from actual seed pods.  It’s harvested in northeast Vietnam & southwest China, and the Chinese word for star anise translates to ‘8 horns’; our specimen, however, has lucky #7..  I spent several careful hours hand carving away the outer layers, reducing extra material, to reveal its most minimal shape. All the delicate detailing of each of the shapely seeds remains intact. Almost the entire collection of pieces went during OPEN STUDIOS this past week, and I’m excited to get started making an even lighter version that I’d like to cast in gold.. LUXE.

star anise detail sterling 14KY clove studs ox sterling clove studs

I’ve also included an updated version of the everyday stud – solid sterling silver clove bud studs – made from a selection of subtly different specimens so that no pair is exactly alike. This is an extension of a project I did for ‘The Mom Show’, a 2012 Turman Larison Gallery exhibition in Helena, Montana, of multi-media art by working artists who are also mothers, expressing the unique and particular challenges the two simultaneous tasks present, as curated by ceramicist, Jess Parker.

makers mark stamp

Last, I’d like to introduce my new maker’s mark. A jeweler’s maker’s mark is the stamp unique to that jeweler that identifies their work. Traditionally it’s a combination of initials or a symbol emblematic of the jeweler. I’ve dreamed of creating my own maker’s mark for 25+ yrs… at long last! The design is a stylized bee w wings of mirror image D’s, a drop of honey + appendages that form ‘XP’ representing my actual business name Xeno Praxis, ‘xeno’ (from Greek) meaning foreign, or different + ‘praxis’ (Greek + Medieval Latin) meaning method or way of doing things.

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with bees, the origins of the name Deborah go back to the Old Testament where she was a prophetess & a judge and had numerous associations w the bee. Some reference Deborah the nurse , some reference Deborah the Judge/Prophetess, some reference Deborah and the general associations with bees.

Creation of order, industriousness, service to others, manufacturing sweetness, I’ll take it.

 

 

 

OPEN STUDIOS 2017

you’re invited to our OPEN STUDIO gathering.. 
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Sunday, Dec 10th – 2-6pm
& Tuesday, Dec 12th – 6-9pm
@ Deb’s studio
Deb’s new line of jewelry + Jess’s amazing new ceramic creations + their hot-off-the-silkscreen-presses 2018  calendar tea towels (sneak peek soon!) 
Pls stop in to enjoy delicious nibbles + glass of cheer, we’re looking forward to seeing you!
 
wishing you & yours a warm & wonderful holiday season ~
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co-creatives / Deb + Jess 
Deb’s cell 415.235.1551
Jess’s cell 510.333.0365

OPEN STUDIO in honor of Mother’s Day

 

Elaine Jess Deb

OPEN STUDIO in honor of Mother’s Day!

Thursday, May 11th from 5PM -9PM

What could be more fitting to celebrate Mother’s Day than women artists/mothers coming together to share their art?

Please join me along with my two hosts / ceramic artist Jess Parker & hand bound book & custom card designer Elaine Chu 

Along with my two new lines Cairns and Ancient/Modern Mosaic I’ll have a limited collection of new treasures from this year’s Tucson Gem Show, including handmade jewelry from Nepal, Turkey, and Vietnam. A rare opportunity!

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Pre-2016 stock will also be available @ greatly reduced/wholesale costs to make room for these new lines!

More sneak peeks to follow later this week of everything you can expect to find @ the sale…

We look forward to seeing you!

Deb, Jess & Elaine

 

finding balance along the journey

 

gemstone cairns

In many parts of the world the use of cairns represents either a desire to mark one’s path or a creative endeavor achieving balance. Functionally, rock groupings are placed along a route to assure travelers in moments of uncertainty that they’re going the right direction. Carefully stacked rocks of all different shapes and sizes are arranged into harmonious balance. Symbolically, they can represent the achievement of us fitting together our many disparate parts, or a successful alignment or limning – providing guidance, hope, or confidence in one’s chosen path – essentially leading us in the right direction. They also give us an opportunity to simply take a breath and appreciate the creativity and beauty surrounding us.

cairns

This is the inspiration behind one of the new lines I’ve created – Cairns – featuring smooth pebble-like faceted gemstones suspended from delicate gold ear wires and chains. The gemstones, with their smooth faceted pebble-like surfaces have a lovely tactile quality while providing a beautiful subtle shine.

More info on the new line soon!

 

Just do it.

jim-card

 

One year ago this month, I was making plans to attend the annual Tucson Gem Show but instead purchased an airplane ticket to fly to Denver, Colorado in the dead of winter to visit an uncle I’d only met twice in my life.

He was in the ICU, riddled with cancer/COPD. My mom had called to say he was in bad shape. She’d flown there not long before but wasn’t planning to return just yet. So, it was daunting to imagine just showing up there myself, basically a stranger, barging in at the hospital at such a stressful moment.

Financially it was a tough time too. My husband’s company had just quasi-imploded and buying a plane ticket to fly to Denver for the wknd wasn’t ideal. But a friend (lifesaver, goddess) who’d grown up not far fr my uncle had moved back not long before and offered to let me stay with her.

So I got on the plane and went.

My uncle lived his whole life in the Denver area, originally with a first wife and their two kids, then with his second wife who I’d met – along with my first cousins – for the first time 10 years earlier. I was so nervous I sent my aunt a text, too hesitant to actually make the call.

In thinking back, I realized that, as an adult, I’d never reached out to build relationships of my own with these relatives. Since I’d only met them once or twice in my life our connection was tenuous – the occasional email, holiday or birthday – really, I wasn’t even aware of missing it because it hardly felt there.

I flew out on a sunny, gorgeous, 80 degree day (rare) into cloudy, freezing, 30 degree Denver – caught the last shuttle to my downtown rental car and drove straight to the hospital. My aunt, who’d only met me once for a couple of hours 10 years earlier, somehow managed to bee-line down the quiet halls to welcome me giving me a big hug. She led me to the ICU where – although I’d been warned of his condition – the shocking multitude of  tubes, masks, machines with my uncle at the center, a giant oxygen mask in lieu of a face.

I froze, feeling like an intruder. (Sidenote: this, oddly, reminded me of the time we bought our newborn home fr the hospital. Lying there, vulnerable, waiting for her first bath, she looked at me and I felt like I should ask permission.)  But he roused himself, slowly pushing the oxygen mask to one  side and, with a small smile said ‘well, hello!’ And just like that the process of slowly getting to know each other began.

He asked details about my life, how my husband and daughter were, what was I doing at work. We realized we had interests in common we hadn’t been aware of. He told me about himself, about what he and his wife both enjoyed doing, about being a hellraiser in his earlier days, race cars, salt flats, backyard BBQs.. He talked about his love for his children & grandchildren, what they were all like. He talked about his best friend, Larry, who he said was the best most loyal friend a guy could have. Saying this actually told me more about him, how he was the kind of person who inspired fierce loyalty and love. He was funny, wry, kind, thoughtful, REAL. Even in his incredibly compromised state, a mischievous sparkle shone in those eyes.

I noticed that his wife seemed to anticipate his needs before being asked and would simply attend to them. The two of them seemed completely in synch –their habit of finishing each other’s thoughts, comfortable in each other’s company – and yet entirely welcoming.  I recognized in him something I remembered my mom saying when I was a teenager. I’d asked her “if you could name just one rule people should live by, which would it be?” and she said “try to never intentionally make people feel bad“.

My folks decided to fly out after all, so we all visited together – talking, laughing, sharing stories, (sneaking in some contraband diet 7ups) – and by the end of the weekend, miraculously, he seemed much improved.  When it was time to go we all talked about making future plans once he got out of the ICU.

 

I went home and wrote him a long letter telling him how much I enjoyed visiting with him, his wife, daughter, and grandchild, and how sad it was that we were only just starting to get to know each other, but hey! better late than never. He wrote back a beautiful and generous note, agreeing how great it would be to stay in touch, and how glad he was too to have reconnected.

A month later my mom called to tell me he had had a sudden relapse and, subsequently died. He was 59.

One year later, I’m thinking how incredibly lucky we were to have shared those few final beautiful moments together at the hospital, swapping stories, laughter, and tears, and how happy I am that I decided to reach outside my comfort zone to try to connect. Don’t hesitate – just do it. You’ll be glad you did.

Hello, again. (Valentine’s Day special sale!)

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THREE years ago this month, I began http://www.5050LIGHT.com to document embarking on a yearlong project of art collaborations in celebration of my upcoming 50th birthday.

TWO years ago this month, I ended my final post of the project, wrapping up that yearlong endeavor.

ONE year ago this month, on the way to Tucson, my path veered off in a different direction… (see upcoming post)

This month, 5050LIGHT.com reemerges as the new home for creative, artistic, noteworthy and/or informative offerings – both personal and professional – within my sphere of influence. I hope you find it an interesting and useful resource. Please feel free to send me your feedback.

Welcome back, and ENJOY!

TUCSON, BABY. (And, HEY, VALENTINE. * SPECIAL SALE Feb 10-13th*) 

I just returned fr a weeklong buying trip in Tucson, Arizona where – every early February – one of the largest groups of gem dealers, suppliers, designers, buyers from around the world convene for a multi-location convention. And oh what a convention it is…

Imagine a multitude of football fields with endless rows of tables packed tip-to-toe with every type of gem and jewelry item imaginable from around the globe, spread out across the city of Tucson. With over 45 separate shows, the largest show alone is almost 200,000SF (or aprox 4 football fields).

This week, I’ll begin showcasing a small selection of beauties I found while in Tucson – handmade treasures fr Nepal, Turkey, and Vietnam – available for purchase by appointment.

Gemstone Earrings $50 – $180  Gemstone Rings $90 – $300   Gemstone Pendants $90 – $250, specialty lg $850   Bracelets $45 – $75

(Pssss… Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday – for those of you with romantic ideas as yet unfulfilled!)

Friday, FEB 10th  ~  Saturday, FEB 11th  ~  Sunday, FEB 12th  ~  Monday FEB 13th  ~  call for an appt 415.235.1551

I’m looking forward to sharing these special items with you!

BEst,

Deb

 

 

TOP 10 LIST re-post

TOP TEN

Happy New Year & Happy Epiphany! 

Once again I offer my list of 10 or so favorite things from 2016* which I hope bring you as much pleasure as they brought me.

May these suggestions lead you & your loved ones to more wonderful opportunities to live ever better ~

A word about this list: COMMUNITY

This is not meant to be ‘pro-consumerism’, rather it is meant to introduce wonderful high quality – predominantly local – resources you may have yet to come across. So.. have at it, folks!

*Caveat emptor As always, advance apologies for any incompatibility or disagreement you may experience in accepting one/any/all of the following suggestions.

With that said, let’s begin…

  1. Boonville Hotel & Table 128– Nirvana. Shangri La. HEAVEN. Casual, cozy, luxe. Summer Sundays’ Oyster Bar & Paella fest is the place to be. Minutes fr a bevy of wine tasting options. Don’t miss Navarro and Philo Apple Farm ‘s stay & cook getaways.
  1. Carmel-By-The-Sea’s fantastic new-ish Italian Restaurant Il Tegamino– sigh. Don’t miss the polpette bar. Sitting outside in the tiny charming courtyard = quite lovely (just say YES to heat lamps). Walk-in only, but well worth the drive.
  1. Bulletproof coffee @ Mission Heirloom. mold-free coffee beans + grass fed Straus butter + brain octane = your perfect day’s start. Say no more.
  1. Sure, we all Can’t Feel Our Face When I’m With You, but have you ever stopped to wonder exactly what other The Weekend lyrics you or the impressionable young mind sitting in the passenger seat is hummingflubbing along with? Clyfford Stumme, The Popstar Professor, to the rescue! In this new post-fact era, I appreciate his desire to seek out meaning and understanding in the sounds that surround us every day.
  1. KALW The Spot – Sunday @ 2PM Ashleyanne Krigbaum’s fabulous weekly storytelling – not to be missed.
  1. The best most deliciously fabulous therapeutic face serum oil you can possibly find Vintner’s Daughter. Bar none.
  1. The Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) – what better way to take a weeklong vacation (of the mind) – a mere bridge away, without jet lag? Enjoy this glorious far-ranging exploration of independent filmsfr around the world before they hit the big screen (some can only be seen here). Meet & interact with actors, directors, writers from the films and get a deeper understanding of the process. Highlights I recommend:

LaLaLand – sweetly melancholy Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling musical in modern day LA.

Girl Flu – tour-de-force storytelling about one girl’s awkward transition into womanhood. (Juno for middle-schoolers.)

Lion – heartbreaking epic journey, one boy’s search to find his way home after being abandoned 25 years earlier. Dev Patel amazes, Nicole Kidman’s quiet performance shines.

Neruda – a slightly hallucinatory dreamlike meandering exploration of Chilean poet and political activist, Pablo Neruda. In person, Gael Garcia Bernal – utterly charismatic.

Loving – (how did I not know about this case?) Everyone should see this drama about the real life couple living in 1967 Virginia, whose fight to stay together led to the seminal Supreme Court decision invalidating the prohibition of interracial marriage. With rising MAJOR STAR Ruth Negga and a surprisingly nuanced performance fr Joel Edgerton.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise – Spectacular, exhilarating, inspirational, moving, POWERFUL.  Don’t miss. (and then go read/re-read her autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings)

…and in case you missed them, go back and watch The Danish Girl (with the sublime Alicia Vikander); Nerve – surprisingly entertaining guilty-pleasure joy ride w sly ++ messaging for teens, and Dope – a super smart sleeper you shouldn’t miss. Unexpected but completely worthwhile and thought provoking.

  1. Two of my absolute favorite reads this year were connected via the same book reading event in Richmond Point. Frances Dinkelspiel’s Tangled Vines– a riveting account of the origins of California’s winemaking history as told through the lens of the notorious 2005 arson case that destroyed 4.5M bottles of wine; and Elizabeth Roesner’s Electric City– an upstate New York story of the origins of electricity and the convergence of three different elements within that society, and their effects on subsequent generations.
  1. The Local Butcher Shop ‘s – hot and ready-to-slurp up cup of bone broth $7. TO. DIE. FOR.

(also a shout out for the lovely French boucherie Olivier’s Butchery in Dogpatch, SF)

  1. ART: What a year! The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) – Larry Rinder’s stellar inaugural year re-opened in the Center St. location. Check out the free weekly Wed @ noon lecture series coming up Big Ideas: with Natasha Boas and be sure to grab a bite upstairs at the always stellar & delicious Babette.

Also don’t miss FOGFAIR next weekend 1/12-15 – a top tier design + art fair @ Fort Mason, it will blow your socks off.

A final thought, in memorium.

“During the twelve days, between Christmas and Epiphany, God permits the dead to walk. This is well known.” King Henry VIII to Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

As fortune had it, I came to this page just yesterday and took pause to remember all the greats we lost this past year – David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Zaha Hadid, Gene Wilder, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Bill Cunningham, Muhammed Ali…to name just a few. The list felt heavier than usual this past year. If only we could have had them a little bit longer. Hug your loved ones close.

*Deb (Matt & Sadie)

Reciprocity welcomed & encouraged! ~ let’s spread some good news, people!

~ wishing for you in 2017: LOVE in abundance, kindness, vision, happiness, JOY ~

FEEL FREE TO FWD THIS if you know someone who might appreciate it. You can also find me debdurant@instagram.com

(And if you’re receiving this but wish not to – just drop me a note so I can take you off of the list. No judgment, just my apology!)

TOP 10 LIST favorite things from 2016*

top 10 list fr 2016

Happy New Year & Happy Epiphany! 

Once again I offer my list of 10 or so favorite things from 2016* which I hope bring you as much pleasure as they brought me.

May these suggestions lead you & your loved ones to more wonderful opportunities to live ever better ~

A word about this list: COMMUNITY

This is not meant to be ‘pro-consumerism’, rather it is meant to introduce wonderful high quality – predominantly local – resources you may have yet to come across. So.. have at it, folks!

*Caveat emptor As always, advance apologies for any incompatibility or disagreement you may experience in accepting one/any/all of the following suggestions.

With that said, let’s begin…

  1. Boonville Hotel & Table 128– Nirvana. Shangri La. HEAVEN. Casual, cozy, luxe. Summer Sundays’ Oyster Bar & Paella fest is the place to be. Minutes fr a bevy of wine tasting options. Don’t miss Navarro and Philo Apple Farm ‘s stay & cook getaways.
  1. Carmel-By-The-Sea’s fantastic new-ish Italian Restaurant Il Tegamino Sigh. Don’t miss the polpette bar. Walk-in only, but well worth the drive.
  1. Bulletproof coffeeMission Heirloom. mold-free coffee beans + grass fed Straus butter + brain octane. Say no more.
  1. Sure, we all Can’t Feel Our Face When I’m With You, but have you ever stopped to wonder exactly what other The Weekend lyrics you or the impressionable young mind sitting in the passenger seat is hummingflubbing along with Clyfford Stumme, The Popstar Professor to the rescue! In this new post-fact era, I appreciate his desire to seek out meaning in the sounds that surround us every day.
  1. KALW The Spot– Sunday @ 2PM Ashleyanne Krigbaum’s fabulous weekly storytelling – not to be missed.
  1. The best most deliciously fabulous therapeutic face serum oil you can possibly findVintner’s Daughter.
  1. The Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF)– what better way to take a weeklong vacation (of the mind) – a mere bridge away, without jet lag? Enjoy this glorious far-ranging exploration of independent films fr around the world before they hit the big screen (some can only be seen here). Meet & interact with actors, directors, writers from the films and get a deeper understanding of the process. Highlights I recommend:

LaLaLand – sweetly melancholy Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling musical in modern day LA.

Girl Flu – tour-de-force storytelling about one girl’s awkward transition into womanhood. (Juno for middle-schoolers.)

Lion – heartbreaking epic journey, one boy’s search to find his way home after being abandoned 25 years earlier. Dev Patel amazes, Nicole Kidman’s quiet performance shines.

Neruda – a slightly hallucinatory dreamlike meandering exploration of Chilean poet and political activist, Pablo Neruda. In person, Gael Garcia Bernal – utterly charismatic.

Loving – how did I not know about this? Everyone should see this drama about the real life couple living in 1967 Virginia whose fight to stay together led to the seminal Supreme Court decision invalidating the prohibition of interracial marriage. With rising STAR Ruth Negga and a surprisingly nuanced Joel Edgerton.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise – Spectacular, exhilarating, inspirational, moving, POWERFUL.

…and in case you missed them, go back and watch The Danish Girl (with the sublime Alicia Vikander); Nerve – surprisingly entertaining guilty-pleasure joy ride, and Dope – a super smart sleeper you shouldn’t miss. Unexpected but completely worthwhile, thought provoking.

  1. Two of my absolute favorite reads this year were connected via the same book reading event in Richmond Point. Frances Dinkelspiel’sTangled Vines– a riveting account of the origins of California’s winemaking history as told through the lens of the notorious arson case that destroyed 4.5M bottles of wine; and Elizabeth Roesner’s Electric City – an upstate New York story of the origins of electricity and the convergence of three different elements within that society, and their effects on subsequent generations.
  1. The Local Butcher Shop‘s – hot and ready-to-slurp up cup of bone broth $7 – TO. DIE. FOR.

(also a shout out for the lovely French boucherie Olivier’s Butchery in Dogpatch, SF)

  1. ART: What a year! The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) – Larry Rinder’s stellar inaugural year re-opened in the Center St. location. Check out the free weekly Wed @ noon lecture series coming upBig Ideas:with Natasha Boas and be sure to grab a bite at the always stellar Babette.

Also don’t miss FOGFAIR next weekend 1/12-15 – a top tier design + art fair @ Fort Mason, it will blow your socks off.

A final thought, in memorium.

“During the twelve days, between Christmas and Epiphany, God permits the dead to walk. This is well known.” King Henry VIII to Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

As fortune had it, I came to this page just yesterday and took pause to remember all the greats we lost this past year – David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Zaha Hadid, Gene Wilder, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Bill Cunningham, Muhammed Ali…to name just a few. The list felt heavier than usual this past year. If only we could have had them a little bit longer. Hug your loved ones close.

*Deb (Matt & Sadie)

Reciproc​ity welcome​d​ & encouraged! ~ let’s spread some good news, people!

~ wishing for you in 2017: LOVE in abundance, kindness, vision, happiness, JOY ~

FEEL FREE TO FWD THIS if you know someone who might appreciate it. You can also find me debdurant@instagram.com

(And if you’re receiving this but wish not to – just drop me a note so I can take you off of the list. No judgment, just my apology!)

Valentine’s Day lore, plus more…

The luscious RUBY is our featured gemstone for February ~

…a few suggestions to help celebrate your loved ones this Valentine’s Day!

According to lore, Valentine’s Day originated from the ancient Roman fertility rite ‘Lupercalia’ which was celebrated on February 15th to honor the founders of Rome and, apparently, also to ‘purify’ the women of Rome.  To this end, priests of Lupercalia would pass through the streets, striking women with strips of freshly slain goat skin, called “februa”, meant to assure them fertility and easy childbirth.

Later, as Rome declined, the emperor Claudius the II decided that single men made better soldiers than men with families, and outlawed marriage for all young men (= those he deemed the best potential soldiers).

Valentine, a Christian priest of that time, realized the injustice of this decree, and defied the emperor by continuing to perform marriages in secret. He was imprisoned for this transgression and later died on February 14th, 270 A.D, but remains the eponymous symbol of enduring and romantic love.

Speaking of love (and sacrifice), has a lovely lady in your life had her ski season sacrificed for lack of snow? Here’s a way for you to bring skiing to her every day! See the featured pendant in my current collection of PRIVATE SALE items. This little lovely is handmade in 14K yellow & white gold, set with 19 single cut diamonds suspended from a 14KY gold link chain, for $640.  Also featured, a 5-diamond prong set ring set in rose gold; a 1930’s bezel set diamond line bracelet in white and rose gold;  and a platinum martini glass tie tack. Call for more details…

I fly to Tucson, AZ soon – to the largest gem show in the world! – held annually in early February. All the best specimens of every gemstone known to man will be on display. If there’s anything you’ve been pining for or something you’d like me to find for you – do let me know. That will be the place to find it…

I’ll be taking orders for gems through Sat, Feb 1st.

The Buoyant Ship of Marital Fortune

Earlier this spring a lovely couple, recently engaged, commissioned me to design and set their beautiful aquamarine gemstone – which the fiance had proposed with – into a new platinum engagement ring.  Both the future bride and groom took an active role in the design process; coming into the studio as partners, outlining and discussing their desires and hopes for what the ring symbolized in their lives, and making the decisions together as they embarked on their journey forward.

As I began my research of aquamarines for the project, I discovered the renowned Swiss gemologist Eduard Gübelin, who wrote lyrically in his book ‘Gemstones’ about the lore surrounding the beautiful blue gem:

“The aquamarine or sea-blue remains permanently associated with water in myths: it accompanies seafarers and ensures them a safe return home; and round the ship of marital fortune, it weaves ribbons of faithfulness. The aquamarine is the gemstone of all young people, and all those who have remained young at heart.”

I took great pleasure sharing these sentiments with them.

As the happy couple are about to join together in marriage this month, here’s wishing you all good fortune and blessings; may you remain eternally young in each other’s heart.

Hearty CONGRATS, Christine and Mark! 

While I’m on the subject of happiness… the bride-to-be happens to be an expert on the subject – take a peek! On her website www.christinecarter.com she’s an eternal fount of useful info and inspiration…

 

 

N.B: Information on E. Gübelin excerpted from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

A tale of two sisters…

Fortunately, while “It was the best of times,” well describes two weddings that recently took place, “it was the worst of times,” refers only to a momentarily-near-disastrous setback in the fabrication process (which, after much wailing and teeth gnashing, eventually got resolved. Whew!)

Having been commissioned by long time clients – celebrating their good luck at having both daughters get married this fall – I set about creating two pairs of sterling silver champagne toasting glasses, one pair for each of the happy couples. Our process began with hand-drawn renderings created specifically to suit each of the daughters’ own personal styles; the first design, made for an accomplished marathon runner, was tall and slender in shape, with thousands of hand-hammered marks symbolizing her daily thousands of footfalls while long distance training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second design, created from an inspiration image, was more modern – stylish, elegant simplicity – with flowing lines. By round two, I’d gained the wherewithal to document the progress of the pieces. What a fantastically fun process this was…

This project has proven to be one of my greatest professional challenges to date. It was, at times, equal parts thrilling / terrifying – working at such a large scale (with such an enormous blow torch) – it ended up providing an incredible learning experience. (Yes, I realize I say this often.) I would like to acknowledge and praise master silversmith, Ruth Rhoten, for her Herculean efforts in overseeing this project.

It has been such a pleasure to be a small part of the process of these two couples coming together to share their lives.

A wedding blessing ~ may you all have everything before you!

(wedding couple photo and sisters photo credit: Steven Bin, aka new son-in-law; toasting cups and all process images credit: Deb Durant)

 

Silver, Golden, Diamond anniversaries

Last month, after having watched the pomp and pageantry of the Queen’s diamond jubilee in London, we headed off on a long and lovely vacation in Florida where my parents – on a cruise celebrating their own golden 50th anniversary – let us stay in their stead to soak up the fabulous summer heat. Ahhh… Berkeley who?

Just prior to leaving town, a group of siblings – about to celebrate their parents’ silver 25th wedding anniversary – decided they wanted to create something special but unconventional to mark the momentous occasion. They contacted me with an innovative idea: recreate the family’s home in detailed silhouette, using sterling silver wire on a black velvet frame. Technical challenges aside, I agreed instantly. It was a wonderful idea, plus a great example of gift-giving at its best; thoughtful, handcrafted, completely unique and personalized to its receivers. It also turned out to be a joy to make. (Despite taking quite a bit longer than anticipated – and really, isn’t that the way with most fabulous endeavors?) The project presented me with a whole new set of challenges which taught me a lot in the process.

Whether 1, 25, 50 or 60 years together, it’s an inspiration to see people finding meaningful ways to celebrate milestones together. Even more satisfying, to be able to be a small part of it.

Congratulations… Auguri!

Recently, we were blessed to be celebrating the marriage of my brother-in-law (yes, finally!) to a lovely woman, whom he is now happily traipsing through the Italian countryside with on their honeymoon. As they say in Italy, a heartfelt “Auguri!” to the both of you, W & R!

(it might be of interest to note that just last week my husband and I celebrated the 11th anniversary of our own elopement and honeymoon in Italy, which said brother-in-law rather hilariously also accompanied us on…)

Earlier this year, in anticipation of their upcoming nuptials, the happy couple paid a visit to my studio to talk about creating the perfect engagement ring. After discussing the range of available diamond shapes and cuts, they settled on a gorgeous Asscher cut diamond.

The Asscher cut diamond – developed in 1902 by Joseph Asscher in Holland – is a stepped square cut diamond, often called the ‘square emerald cut’. Like an emerald cut it also has cropped corners. With its series of squared steps, the Asscher cut is like a tiny ‘hall of mirrors’ designed to draw the eye inward into the diamond. It is a rare and lovely choice for an engagement ring, well balanced and sophisticated.

Once the diamond was selected, the next step was to design the custom setting for her new diamond. We went with a classic 4-prong with clean modern detailing  – an ideal complement to the Asscher – creating a beautiful piece that symbolizes their new found life together.

In Praise of Rosecut Diamonds

Rose cut diamonds have been in use in various forms of jewelry design since the mid 16th century. The shape of a rose cut diamond resembles the petals of an opening rose bud, rising upward on the top side into a domed shape with the underside flattened, effectively making it appear to be cut ‘upside down’. This unusual cut allows for a much larger shape with less weight – so settings can sit lower on the hand. The overall effect this cut has on the diamond is akin to comparing a brightly lit room with high powered bulbs to the sparkling glimmer of evening candlelight.

Recently, I have had an unusual number of requests to create engagement rings using this older style of diamond. Their soft, gentle sparkle resonates with many of my clients who long for a more romantic diamond that better speaks of the individual character of the wearer. Unlike the modern round brilliant cut – with its absolute precision and calibration – the rosecut better illustrates the hand of the artist who created it, featuring a more organic yet balanced form. The rarity and value of the rosecut lies in its unique shaping and ‘glittering pebble’ effect.

I have a client who proposed to his beloved girlfriend last night – congrats J & T!  – who had me create a rendering of the future ring he would like to create alongside his fiancee. I sifted through hundreds of rosecut diamonds for him, hand selecting a small parcel which best met his chosen specifications. When I showed him the choices – he knew right away which one was hers. This is the beauty of the rosecut – it’s uniqueness and individuality. Each one distinctively different and with its own character – the perfect symbol of the love it is meant to reflect.

IN GRATITUDE

As we celebrated Mother’s Day (marker for the original source of gratitude) this past weekend, I received several reminders about the importance of gratitude, especially for the basic things in our lives; our good health, a happy child, a warm sunny day, a well-cooked meal to nourish ourselves and those we love. (Personally, my daughter and I enjoy thanking green lights as we scurry to school each morning…)

Last week a client of mine emailed from a business trip overseas to ask if we might be able to create something special for his wife for Mother’s Day. Previously, he had asked me to keep an eye out for something for his lovely light-up-the-room wife, while I was in Tucson on my annual buying trip. I had indeed found what I thought would be just the perfect thing for her – beautifully hand-carved, droplet shaped lemon citrines – in soft but vibrant honeydew melon green. These were my ‘special find’ at the show this year – that one elusive thing that, after 10 years of attending the largest gem show in the world, I had never seen before. Each year I make it a goal to find a new ‘special find’ – it always turns out to be a highlight of the trip! This beautiful sparkling gem speaks for itself, so we decided to simply suspend it from a delicate silk strand, add a handmade 18Ky gold ‘S’ clasp and just a few granulated gold bead accents. I think it looks simply lovely.

I hope you were able to find opportunities to celebrate all of the wonderful things in your life this weekend, and in all of your weeks going forward. Enjoy!

Coming up…

Next month, I plan to feature a few more of my finds from this year’s buying trip. I’ll present them in their loose, unset original forms – so they can be made into a custom design of one’s choosing. Special requests are always welcome! It would truly be my pleasure to hunt for & find that amazingly wonderful ‘special something’ just for you.

TUCSON, baby!

a selection of loose natural colored diamonds

Once a year, for about two weeks in early February, tens of thousands of people make their way to Tucson, Arizona for ‘The World’s Largest Treasure Hunt’. The event, which began humbly back in 1955, is The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, and it’s the largest gem show in the world. Over 40 shows will open their doors around the city, attracting somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 visitors to the city. Pretty much everyone who’s involved in the jewelry business attends this show each year. It is an incredible opportunity to see the most spectacular selection of gems from a vast array of suppliers from all over the world (and get the best deals!) I relish this once-a-year excursion to see the finest examples of rare, hard-to-find gems, the latest most cutting edge designs in our industry, and perhaps also new recently discovered gem deposits.

If there is anything special you have been pining for, be sure to let me know!

Holiday greetings!

Who can believe there are only 20 days left to this year? It has been a year of many changes – some challenging, some good – and I think we are all looking forward to ushering in a new year.

Last year around this time I was inspired to create a snowflake collage using a number of colored gem pieces made in the past year – I hope you enjoy!

We are having a blowout sale until December 31st on some of our favorite holiday pieces. Please feel free to peruse the shop and give us a call if there’s something you see which you’d like. Why not add a little sparkle to you holidays?

~ Happiest Holidays and a Prosperous New Year to everyone ~

The MOM Show: Mom’s Invitational / November

WISP neclace

As the leaves turn color and fall from the trees, once again it’s time to draw inward and mull the passage of time. As a working mother, time seems to fly faster than ever before. Creating artwork is something I am able to assign precious few hours to each day, but nonetheless it all seems to get done. To that end, I am happy to be participating in “The MOM Show: Mom’s Invitational” opening this weekend at the Turman Larison Contemporary Gallery in Helena, Montana (Nov 5th – Dec 10th). The show is being curated by friend and fellow artist Jess Parker, and will include a collective of artist/mom friends who, like me, are trying to find a thriving balance between parenting and creating art in their lives. To find out more about the show, follow this link http://www.turmanlarison.com/current.htm

November is also the birth month for two golden gems – yellow citrine from the quartz family and yellow topaz from the silicate family. The name citrine comes from the old French ‘citrin’ meaning lemon. Typically, citrines are found in cabochon shapes (rounded smooth faces) but they also are available faceted. Citrine often has a deeper golden glow to it, whaereas topaz is a brighter crisper yellow. A little known fact about citrine is that chemically it is almost identical to amethyst – most citrines are actually amethysts that have been heated to turn the golden hue of citrine. Yellow topaz is a often a desirable choice for jewelry pieces as it is a harder stone, making it a more durable choice.

Citrine
Yellow Topaz

Midsummer Night’s Eve

I heard a fascinating segment on NPR this morning of The Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor;

“Tonight is Midsummer Night’s Eve, also called St. John’s Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It’s a time when the hives are full of honey. The full moon that occurs this month was called the Mead Moon, because honey was fermented to make mead. That’s where the word “honeymoon” comes from, because it’s also a time for lovers. An old Swedish proverb says, “Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking.” Midsummer dew was said to have special healing powers. In Mexico, people decorate wells and fountains with flowers, candles, and paper garlands. They go out at midnight and bathe in the lakes and streams. Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. Legend says that this is the best night for gathering magical herbs. Supposedly, a special plant flowers only on this night, and the person who picks it can understand the language of the trees. Flowers were placed under a pillow with the hope of important dreams about future lovers. Shakespeare set his play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on this night. It tells the story of two young couples who wander into a magical forest outside Athens. In the play, Shakespeare wrote, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

I was particularly struck by this as, historically, the name Deborah means “Queen Bee”. The origin of the name is also Hebrew; and in the Old Testament of the Bible, Deborah was the name of a judge, prophetess and lawmaker. Over the centuries this name has traditionally been appreciated for its association with the hard work, persistence, and importance to society for which bees were known. As such, I pay homage to bees here with a necklace and earrings made from 18KY gold and black diamonds.

As for true love, the impulse to create and manifest symbols in celebration of such unions is with me constantly and, hopefully, always will be.

Welcome, Spring!

Spring is a time of renewal, a time for regeneration, for casting off winter’s chill and embracing the lengthening days of sunshine. Garnet, the gemstone associated with March, is full of life and fire, brilliance and luminosity. It’s deep warm colors evoke mystery and passion and draw the viewer in for a closer look. There is an impressive range of available colors, from the deep blood red Mozambique garnet, to juicy mandarin and spessartite garnets, to bright leafy green tsavorite garnets and even the rare lemony-green demantoid garnets, to name a few. All express the ability to attract and disperse light brilliantly.

Garnets have been known to mankind for thousands of years. It is said that Noah used a garnet lantern to help him steer his ark through the dark night. Garnets are also found in jewellery from early Egyptian, Greek and Roman times. Many an early explorer and traveler liked to carry a garnet with him, for the garnet was popular as a talisman and protective stone, as it was believed to light up the night and protect its bearer from evil and disaster.1

I ‘ve created a suite of pieces to embrace the garnet – one exemplifies a harmonious, monochromatic balance between mandarin garnets, rubies, and Mexican fire opals set into sumptuous 18K yellow gold; another combination heralds a fiery Mozambique garnet along with the cool sophistication of black diamond and spinel. These colorful offerings feel like a breath of fresh air… Enjoy!

1 International Colored Gemstone Association

… and a Happy New Year

After a wonderful flurry of holiday activity it is with weary relief that we bid a fond adieu to 2009, and look ahead to the new year, 2010.

January has already practically slipped through our fingers and February, along with Valentine’s Day, is fast upon us. This coming month, we would like to highlight pieces with gems that celebrate the rich colors associated with the most romantic holiday – ruby red, hot pink rubellite, juicy mandarin garnet, Mexican fire opal, in addition to a sweet assortment of tiny gold hearts (for your sweetheart).

Throughout history, red has been the primary color choice for conveying love, with it’s association to passion, fire, lust, heat, and  romance. Like a perfect crystalline drop of blood, the ruby bead is like a visible heartbeat. Whether playing up it’s vitality against snowy white seed pearls, or accentuating it’s dramatic flair surrounded by brilliant orange, peach, and golden sapphires – the ruby remains the symbolic queen of love.

Check out our Valentine’s Day specials! Up to 25% off select holiday pieces for a limited time only. January 25th – February 14th

 

Red letter day…

It’s a red letter day… We’re very excited to be launching the online shop today!

The new shop will be featuring Holiday Specials, the Xeno Praxis Jewelry Line, and Limited Edition – a selection of one-of-a-kind pieces, for that extra special event… or that extra special someone.

A limited number of custom orders are still available in time for the holidays, so please email deb@debdurant.com or call 415.235.1551 during studio hours to discuss.

Please note *

Special holiday sale prices are available only through Friday Dec. 18th, so don’t wait to place your orders! Expedited delivery will be available through Wed., Dec. 23rd.

Wishing you all a happy & healthy holiday season!

Twigs

This past summer, my daughter Sadie and I had the pleasure of joining two of my clients at their wedding reception in Tilden Park. It was a wonderful affair, with piles of Cheese Board pizzas, kegs of rootbeer, and a field of smiling, laughing faces. It was that joyous kind of wedding event that felt like it had been composed of the hands of many happy friends and family. At the reception, I was introduced to a very sweet couple who had had their weddings rings made a few years prior, but had not been completely happy with the results. When they later came to the studio, they brought a lovely delicate 22KY gold engagement ring for us to use as the reference point for the new rings. It looked like a beautiful golden twig nestling a striking blue square turquoise. After much discussion, we went out into the garden behind the studio and hunted for just the right size, shape, and texture twig to capture the feel of the ring. Then I set to work carving both of their new wedding bands in wax. (the fun part!)

Once the rings had been cast into gold (we were able to preserve the gold from their original rings) the final results were surprisingly satisfying – our small nature expedition had yielded convincingly natural precious metal twigs.

Jewelry Show at Shreve & Co. last night…

Last night I was part of the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Designers by the Bay – a fine jewelry showcase event celebrating its 13th year which was held at Shreve & Co. in San Francisco. www.designersbythebay.com.

Presented each year by the WJA’s Northern California chapter,this showcase is the regions premier fine jewelry event, featuring many exciting new collections from local designers.

I previewed my latest work made with Murano glass, which I purchased this past summer from a small family-owned glass beadmaking factory we found on the island of Murano, located in the laguna just north of Venice, Italy. It was wonderful to work with the beauty and saturated colors of this incredible art form of hand blown glass beads, a technique created in the middle of the last century B.C. We were shown old photos from the 50’s of the glassmaking factories, marvelling at their long and narrow shapes.  It was fascinating to hear the glass-blower explain exactly how the glass bead making technique worked. In order to create the tiny glass beads, the process begins with a glass cylinder called the cane, or cana in Italian. First, the cane is heated in the furnace; once molten it is removed from the heat and air is introduced into the cane to hollow the tube. Immediately afterwards, two men (running as fast as they can in opposite directions) stretch the cane aproximately 100 meters long, which they then carefully lay down into a long wooden receiving trough. Another person then cuts the cane into shorter lengths with a diamond saw, 100 at a time (eventually creating many thousands of beads) using calce (lime powder) to keep each piece from closing at the ends of the tubes. Finally, the beads are reheated, rounding the edges of each individual bead creating the smooth finished perline (tiny hollow glass beads).

Their translucency and golden lustre add so much depth and dimension to each piece. It is a rarity quite unlike gemstones found in nature, reflecting the artistic hand in its beauty. I hope to work with Murano glass beads more in the future.

…speaking of wonderful moments

Recently I experienced one of the most incredible ‘firsts’ of my entire career. A new client, Mia, contacted me about making a custom engagement ring. After a few preliminary back and forth emails, we decided to set up an appointment to meet in the studio and discuss designs. Her boyfriend, Joel, came with her to the appointment; they worked together on the design, choosing a gorgeous ruby as the focal gem with a small brilliant white diamond accent, set into white gold. I had already warned them that I was leaving soon for Italy for a month, and would not be able to finish the ring until after I got back.  They had made plans to leave on their own vacation just a couple of days after my return.  We managed to get to the finished metal stage the day before they were to leave, with the only remaining step being the setting of the gems.

The plan was for Mia and Joel to come to my studio Monday evening after work to see the finished metal and have a final sizing.  When they arrived my 6 yr. old daughter and her best friend were playing in the studio, but thankfully they graciously indulged the kiddo’s intrusion. I was very excited to show them their all-but-the-last-step finished piece.  I took the ring out, gently laying the ruby and diamond on top of their settings, and carefully handed it to Joel for him to place on Mia’s hand.  As he took the ring I noticed his hands were trembling a bit.  He turned to Mia and slowly, quietly asked, “will you marry me?”  An incredible electricity seemed to charge the air in the room for a moment – she looked up, startled, thrilled, and said ‘Yes!’ She gingerly put the gems down and they hugged and kissed each other giddily.  The girls were so excited they were cheering; I looked at Joel – incredulous – and asked “is that the first time you asked?” and he said that yes, it was…

It was the most amazing thing, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world to have a job that lets me witness such incredibly powerful moments.

Life is good.

Ruby

For thousands of years, the ruby has been considered one of the most valuable gemstones on Earth.  The birthstone for July, it is the gem most often associated with passion and fire.  Along with sapphire, it is from the corundrum family, and is one of the hardest gems known to man, second only to diamond.  The only thing that separates a ruby from a sapphire is trace elements within the crystals, but only red corundum is entitled to be called ruby, all other colors are considered sapphires.

Diamonds

From the Greek word adamas meaning “invincible”, diamond is the birthstone for June.  Dating back to the 1500’s, when it became commonly known that it was the hardest mineral  known to man, the diamond has been the gem of choice for engagement and ceremonial rings the world over.  Naturally, when selecting a gem for the ring one plans to wear to symbolize a relationship’s enduring love, the eternal diamond is a beautifully brilliant – and practical – choice.  (It is also thought that Egyptians believed a vein in the left hand’s ring finger, the vena amoris or “vein of love”, ran directly to the heart.  Romans were among the first to practice wearing their engagement rings on this finger.)

Over the past few months I have had many different brides come into the studio to design a diamond engagement ring to symbolize their love.  Some have come with beautifully classic diamonds passed down to them from their grandmothers and aunts, in hopes of transforming them into clean modern designs.  Another was seeking to create a diamond ring that felt like an incredible ancient treasure recently unearthed.  Still another chose a diamond with perfect color, clarity, and cut proportions to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her marriage.

It is such an honor to be able to create rings which celebrate the sacred ritual of joining two individuals together, to play a small part in one of life’s happiest moments celebrating love.  To hear people’s stories about how they met, what it was that drew them together, and what remains most important to them, and then begin the process of transforming this information into an object of beauty using precious metals and gems, this is the wonderful challenge. Few things are more satisfying then witnessing the joy people feel when they’ve created their own diamond rings, as unique and individual as them.