Monday, 23 March 2009

Designer: Alexis Bittar

Whether you know his name, or whether you don't, it's safe to say that after reading this you'll be left wanting a bit of Alexis Bittar - America's jewellery darling du jour.

New Yorker Alexis was never shy when it came to demonstrating his entrepreneurial streak; by the age of 10 he'd set up a flower stall opposite his childhood home in Brooklyn; at 20 Alexis embarked on what has been an ever-growing career, creating his first line of vintage glass jewellery, handmade from reclaimed chandelier droplets.

In the two decades since, Alexis has worked hard; he's produced several stunning collections and, more recently, collaborated with the Burberry fashion house. His jewellery has featured in advertising campaigns for Estee Lauder and, most notably, Sex & The City, following Alexis' work with the show and movie's stylist, Patricia Field.
Though Alexis works with three ranges - Miss Haversham, Elements and Lucite - it is the latter with which his work has become synonymous. Producing a wide collection of Lucite pieces - from on-trend tribal bangles and floral necklaces, to deco-inspired rings - Alexis works with the seasonal colours and trends to keep his designs ever-fresh and ever-more striking. His colourful palettes are left chic and simple, or come adorned with gold studs, Swarovski crystals and giant faux gemstones. The current collection, Celestial, is a marriage of the sea with Alexis' spring-time pastel hues. Bright coral reds clash with gold studding to create a look that's both daring and high-glamour.

Last year I had the great opportunity of meeting Ashley, one of Alexis' sale representatives for the UK. It gave me the chance to get to know more about the techniques used in the creation of the Lucite range - each piece is hand-carved from a chunk of Lucite, painted with layer upon layer of colour and then sealed with a gold toned outer-layer - and of course about Alexis' future plans. Word is, following time spent in London, Alexis has been inspired by the club kids of Hoxton and Shoreditch, not to mention the (now sadly deceased) club night Boombox.
With such a chameleon-like array of colours and an ever-changing design portfolio, owning one piece by Alexis is never going to be enough; his bangles alone are super-stackable, very durable and great fun to mix'n'match. And with a promising future ahead of him - and a growing fan base - it's without hesitation that I say Alexis is one desinger you have to keep an eye on!
For UK stockists, check out EC One, Liberty and Kabiri, who sell online!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Coming up: What to look out for on Like Gold Dust

So today has been one of the most sunny days this year - enough so that I was out of bed at 9am and wandering around Victoria Park in east London by 10am. This gave me a bit of a chance to think about my up and coming ideas for Like Gold Dust, so I thought I'd give you readers a bit of a run-down of things coming up in the next few weeks..

Interviews: The next month should see a few more interviews, look out for chats with Lindsay Pearson and Hannah Bedford.

Designer focus: Alexis Bittar anyone? Your chance to read a bit more about America's jewellery darling, among others.

Trends and Themes: goodness knows what will be 'in' next month, let alone this week. But I have a few in mind... and look out for the introduction of a 'What are you wearing?' section, where I'll be stopping those lovely jewellery wearers and taking a quick snap of their pieces for LGD - so we can discuss or simply adore!

So, drop by soon - and keep reading!

Kathryn x

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Theme: Absolutely Charming

The collecting of charms has always been popular. The meaning behind each individual trinket - be it silver or gold, animal mineral or vegetable - is always personal to the owner. The wearing charms, on bracelets or as pendants, has long been a tradition in my own family. My mother's silver charm bracelet is jam packed with beautiful, individual charms - from a goose which lays a 9ct gold egg, to a little silver bell, and a house which opens to reveal a double bed - bought when she moved into her first home.

For my sister and I, our 10th birthdays marked the beginning of our charm collecting. Every birthday, Christmas, or special occasion brings about the chance to give another charm as a little token - something personal, a present which has been thought about and relates to who we are. Of my sisters many charms, the one I always remember is a little silver aeroplane, to represent the first time she flew - holed up in a tiny plane with about 15 school friends on a ski trip to the Alps. My favourite charm is a hard one to call, but I think it'll have to be the silver ice cream cone, which opens to a rather odd sight - a silver tongue sticking out of its middle, ready for a big lick of ice cream.

More recently, I've started to build up a silver charm necklace. There's a bit of a theme with this one: love. I have three charms which say 'I love you' - one in English, one in French and one in German. The English charm is a 'spinner', which with a flick of a finger spins to reveal the hidden I love you message; the French Je t'aime charm is in the style of a postcard; the German Ich liebe dich charm is a sweet little heart with decorative diamond-cut edges. The St.Christopher was transferred from an old necklace from my teenage years, and the silver Ankh was worn by my father back in the 70s when he had floppy hair and moustache. The parrot and the crown - well, they were just too fun not to add!

With such stories behind the charms, designers such as Annina Vogel have been quick to see the appeal of these unusual little trinkets. With a similar love for charms from a young age, Annina now sells sweet silver (or gold) individual charms, or ready-made charm necklaces and antique rings and bangles. Trawling antique jewellery fairs and markets in search of distinct, one-of-a-kind style charms, Annina can create personalised pieces to suit any personality or brief, from animal-lovers and home bodies, to those who still have a Peter Pan streak, always recollecting their childhood.

If - like me - you work at the weekends and don't always get the chance to rummage through local antique markets or fairs, then a place to buy unique charms is on eBay. A pretty obvious answer, but with a bit of browsing you can purchase charms old and new for bargain prices - and often with so much choice you'll be making a shopping list!

Through eBay I discovered one of my favourite charm sellers - Maldon Jewellery. They're a great little Essex-based jewellers who sell thousands of silver and 9ct gold charms, for very reasonable prices indeed - and post all over the UK. The charms are all new - no antique ones I'm afraid - but there's plenty of subcategories under which you can search, from 'weddings' and 'underwater', to 'transport' and 'gardening'. You can mix, match and get as creative as possible - they even sell the charm bracelets and silver neckchains to get you started. There's no excuse, now!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Theme: Spring Rings

The yummy sunshine that we've been treated to for the past few days seems to have put a bit of spring's bounce back into our tired, wintry selves. The promises of spring - clear sunny days, warm breezes and buds on the trees - are not far off; walking home this week I spotted daffodils in full flower, and woke up today to the birds singing. It's the colours of spring, however, that I'm most looking forward to; and what better a way to show off these colours than through oversized gemstone rings? I know, I couldn't think of another way, either!

Think gemstones in pastel hues and unusual shapes and sizes - the only way to show off springtime colour is do it BIG, but with pretty detail or design to keep it feminine. The spring ring demands an admiring audience, whilst maintaining elegance. If you've given something naughty up for lent, then these few gorgeous pieces should keep you satisfied until then (at least, until you crack open your Easter egg!)

Online jeweller retailer Astley Clarke have a continuously updated range of jewellery, from affordable silver and gold plate pieces, to high-end, gem-set designs. Their spring rings do not disappoint - with prices under £100 right up the thousands, there's both the dream and the reality right at our fingertips. Nazanine Tassoudji's striking 18ct yellow gold rings are super-springtime; set with delectable sugary coloured gemstones, from pearls and tourmalines, to turquoise and lemon quartz. Her most striking spring ring, below, embraces the colours of springtime: the smooth pearl is offset by the dangling tourmaline briolette surround. Sumptuous!

On a more accesible level are Monica Vinader's fabulous range of rings. The past year has seen Monica shoot into the mainstream; she is now stocked nationwid, everywhere from Harvey Nichols and Liberty, to local jewellers such as Polka Dot in Taunton. Her sterling silver and gold-plated cocktail rings are simple yet 'statement'. Set with a range of chunky faceted stones - such as moonstone, pink chalcedony and malachite - these rings are sure to receive admiration on a budget (I should know... I have three...!)

Over at EC One, the retailer's founder and in-store jewellery designer Jos Skeates has created a fabulous deco-inspired collection of rings which sit beautifully in the spring rings theme. Featuring soft pastel-coloured gemstones such as morganite, aquamarine and green beryl, and studded with diamonds, Jos' designs are worthy of the red-carpet. And with names like Butterfly and Fleur, they celebrate spring like nothing else!

Of course, I can't write about spring rings without mentioning my ultimate choice of spring ring design. Dior's Diorette collection of brightly coloured, gem-set enamelled rings feature flowers, insects and - occasionally - the odd amphibian. Sounds like a heady mix, but trust me it works. The diamond-set daisy ring would be perfect for everyday... But if you're going spring ring, you might as well go all out! C'est parfait!