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In India, land of lavish exotic jewelry, the idea of birthstones is sooo…western. In their Vedic jewelry tradition nine gemstones are assigned to nine planets. You select your jewelry according to what part of your life needs a tune-up.
For instance, if you’re interested in achieving fame and commanding power, you wear a ruby. If your memory needs a jog you might boost your brain power by wearing an emerald.
Even though Indian weddings are notorious for being sumptuous jewel fests, you’d never find an emerald anywhere near an Indian bride, as the gems are said to interfere with conjugal relations.
Ancient scholars have traced the idea of birthstones back to the Breastplate of Aaron in the book of Exodus. His vestment was a religious garment made with twelve colors representing the twelve tribes of Israel. A corresponding gemstone was attributed to each color and set across the garment in four rows of three: sardius (carnelian), topaz and carbuncle (garnet); emerald, sapphire and diamond; ligure (orange zircon), agate and amethyst; and beryl, onyx and jasper.
Each of the twelve gemstones was said to have special powers associated with a corresponding astrological sign, and that wearing these stones at the right time would have therapeutic or protective benefits. It was common to collect all twelve stones and wear them in planetary rotation or when one felt the need for a particular power boost.
The modern birthstone list was put together in 1912 when the National Association of Jewelers created the list by assigning gems to months. It didn’t change until 2002 when the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) declared tanzanite to be a December birthstone, though turquoise and zircon were already designated as such. The Jewelers of America liked the idea and made the overtly commercial statement,
“JA sees the addition of tanzanite for December as a way to build business. Any step that helps retailers sell more jewelry is a good one.”
In 2006 Tanzanite One, a large tanzanite mining company, designated the stone “everyone’s” birthstone and suggested that it be given as a gift to all babies at birth. Their advertising slogan, “Be born to tanzanite.” No ancient wisdom. No shamanism. No mystical powers declared. What’s a gem without a story? Just another rock…
Some days it’s OK to go off the rails. A girl can’t always be wearing her big girl hat and polishing her goody two shoes. How much fun is that?
OK, so I got a few emails after my last post about Retrograde Mercury. Yes, the concept may seem “out there” which is what makes it so juicy. Sooo much more interesting than a booooring post about what Blake Lively is wearing.
Here’s how it goes: there’s meaning in the universe and we make jewelry, the way we marry these facts is by making jewelry that has some meaning behind it. (:
My stepmother once befriended Natasha, a funny fascinating lady in her 90s who lived near my grandmother. The woman used to be a nightclub singer: in her day she was called a chanteuse. She had the stories that went with the whole romantic notion. Even at 94 she looked the part. In her nightclub appearances she always wore pearls with her fancy gowns. I saw the old photos of her with men who looked like rich patrons and some that reminded me of Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire.
In 1992 she died and donated her estate to charity. Catherine, my stepmother bought the pearls for me. It was the perfect gift and the thing I LOVED the most was the history the pearls carried. In fact the story was in much better shape than the pearls, which were badly stained and needed restringing.
I took them to a jeweler for refurbishing who marveled at the layers of soil he deemed to be makeup, perfume and nicotine. Fabulous! The story was confirmed by real evidence. I like to imagine they were a gift from one of her smitten patrons.
Pearls with stories are the best kind. If yours are new, start infusing them with your stories right away. If they are white or natural colored pearls they will darken slightly with age and wear. This is not dirt that can be rinsed away; it’s the patina that comes with the stories.
For Your Pearl PLEASURE: How To Take Care of Your Pearls
Coco Chanel had an eye for playboys and a knack for identifying impoverished royalty with useful talents. A stream of penniless nobles and notorious cads with fat wallets marched through her boudoir. Many of which contributed to her success and her legend.
Fulcodi de Verdura was an Italian Duke with noticeable artistic talent and limited finances, a textbook example of Chanel potential. She hired him to design textiles then asked him to re-design several of the jewels given to her by her ex-lovers. It was the beginning of a historical partnership.
The jewels he created for her became the hallmark of her iconic jewelry collection. The Maltese crosses and Byzantine themes are still considered classic Chanel. The pieces were big bold statements with eye-popping colored gemstones: Verdura is credited with being the first to mix colored gemstones with gold. The Verdura style was much copied then and still is today.
Verdura moved to NY in 1939 and opened a small salon on Fifth Ave backed by Cole Porter and Vincent Astor. He sold his business and retired in 1973 leaving thousands of sketches to the new owner. His designs are still made and sold from the New York salon and at high end jewelry and specialty stores.
Many vintage Verdura pieces will be on sale this month at Masterpiece, the annual art, antiques and jewelry show that runs from June 27 through July 3, 2013 in London.
Practicing Wishful Thinking
Verdura, whether new or vintage, doesn’t come cheap. These are baubles with serious heritage. So if they are out of reach to own, consider finding inspiration in gazing at them in print. Verdura: The Life and Work of a Master Jeweler
She was said to be shrewd, calculating and a great beauty as well. BUT her enduring legend is her ability to use her wit and charm to facilitate powerful political and personal connections.
Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. She married BOTH of her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. Her parents were also siblings. They did things differently then.
She co-ruled with her brothers until she learned they were conspiring to overthrow her and successfully turned the tables to emerge the sole ruler. At the same time she dissolved her marriage contracts, started amassing her own fortune, and forged impressive liaisons with other powerful leaders.
If Cleopatra were writing her top 5 tips for success, they might look like this:
- Learn to work with what you’ve got, beauty, brains, wit, charm, motivation: you don’t need them all, a couple will do nicely. It’s how you USE them that counts.
- Mix business with pleasure, especially if you enjoy both. If you don’t enjoy both then start now to make some positive changes in that direction.
- Dress for success. If you don’t have time to swath yourself in silk, put some decent jewelry on. If the jewels are BIG enough, no one will notice your old khakis!
- Know who’s on your side and who’s out to grab your throne. A girl NEEDS allies she can trust.
- LOVE big but don’t let it blind you, inhibit you, or throw you off your path.
Horoscopes are written by people who study the planets but in the end put their own spin on what it all means. Since we’re masters of our own lives or should be, we can read what the year of the horse may bring using my formula: take what we like and leave what we don’t.
The Chinese believe that those born in the year of the horse have a strong need to improve themselves and they make a constant effort to do so. Horse people are probably the ones who propel self-help books to the bestseller lists.
They are also energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. In ancient lore they are designated ‘Qianli Ma’, meaning “a horse that covers many thousands of miles in a day. I like the sound of that but must take care not to use up too many of those miles chasing my tail.
Believe in it as year of transformation and do what you need to do to make the glass slipper fit. Believing in Magic Worked for Cinderella.
I found a list of their characteristics on ChinaTravelGuide.com
Sweep and sew and cook and clean,
Smile when Esmeralda’s mean.
Try not to make your Stepmom mad.
All this time where was your Dad?
It’s my lame attempt at grade school poetry but didn’t you always wonder why Cinderella’s Dad never showed up to protect her from her evil stepmother and those sloth-like stepsisters? Her patience was rewarded. When the last glass shoe dropped she ended up with a prince, a palace, and a happy ending. All she had to do was work like a slave and believe in magic.