Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ametrine & Labradorite Necklace

Today is Halloween! I made myself a new necklace. Lovely shop owner was on hand to guide me through the process. So nice to hear tips from a seasoned pro for once. The stones were rare and kinda pricey so I wanted to make sure I got it right.

Check out the lovely finishing. All with gold filled beads and gold plated finishings. I found some really good quality Ametrine beads that are clear with visible separation, but, with visible inclusions. Complemented with gem quality (or as close as Labradorites get to gem quality) Labradorite faceted beads.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tibet bag

Found it in a Tibet imports shop, hand beaded & embroidered. It's up there with my Lebanese ethnic tote. These variants are not cheap at $169 and $350 respectively. But are pretty cool huh.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

World Wildlife Fund

Screening of "the end of the line" at my office today. Organized by the WWF, the documentary is about overfishing with an eco-conscious theme. Suddenly have an urge to go out and start gulping down blue fin tuna before they ban it. Just kidding, buy only from companies with sustainable fishing practices. Homepage:

The World Wildlife Fund is really a good cause. You can find out more about how you can contribute as a consumer or donate directly at Alternatively, you can buy the WWF Faberge Eggs (where 15% of proceeds are donated) or the annual edition of soft toys from Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baccarat Ring

Is the Baccarat Cabochon collection actually mood rings?

Traditionally, mood rings change color according to your body temperature and hence, indicate your mood. I thought I bought the wrong colour when I wore my Baccarat ring (above) to work. Turns out it changes from blue to purple as the weather gets colder. Pretty cool huh. They should make it into a series of outdoor chairs that indicate the temperature.

Flowers in parallel

I finally got my professional certificate in floral design, endorsed by the World Floral Council. Now to find a 2nd job as a florist...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness

It affects 1 in 10 women. Awareness and regular checkups do count!

Donate directly or by buying Mikimoto's "Everything is possible with hope" necklace. 50% of proceeds are donated to Young Survival Coalition.

Monday, October 19, 2009

China Holiday - shopping

Silk is in such abundance in Suzhou and Hangzhou that they use it to make practically everything. Pure silk quilts & pillows (with silk stuffing), embroidery, weaved into tapestry & rugs, clothes, jewellery and Chinese knots (for ornamentation). I bought a bunch of pre-dyed silk threads from the factory as I wasn't planning on tailoring clothes. They sell raw silk threads as well, so you can bring it home to dye it to the colour of your choice.

Silk brocade is always lovely, although the look by itself is a little dated. I found 2 bags that used it in a way that looks fresh. Patchwork tote above can be zipped up and is encased in a clear vinyl cover for easy cleanups. Neon clutch with matching silk tassel made with Aventurine and dyed Jade.

Suzhou is famous for it's silk embroidery. Personally, I like the cats as they always manage to make it look fluffy. Double sided embroidery brings it to a whole other level. 1 piece of silk chiffon, 2 looks (see below). Blue-eyed kitty on 1 side and puppy on the other side. They also do it with leopards and lions or kittens with fishes. More commonly, you will find the same embroidery on both sides but in different colours.

Taihu lake freshwater pearls (see below) come in a wide variety of colours, measuring 4mm to 12mm in diameter. According to the guide, pearls were originally used by Chinese as creams and tonics (which they still do today). Less so for ornamentation. A few members in the tour group took this opportunity to buy the bigger, rarer coloured pearls to bring home to set.

ZhengXiaoQuan scissors from Hangzhou. The No.1 brand in China that is used throughout the country. Former sword makers that now make sharp scissors purported to withstand several decades of usage. I couldn't resist and bought 2; 1 specifically meant for cutting cloth (those who sew know that sharp scissors is the key) and a gold handle version.

Of course, when in China, you will always end up buying some fengshui items. A translucent Nanjing Jade Pixiu on a giant ball (see below). The most unusual and adorable carving I have come across so far.

A more common yellow jade carving of a Pixiu (see below).

Stocked up on more semi-precious stones for my jewellery making. It's much cheaper than what I would ordinarily have to pay. Below picture is of the pink jade and yellow jade necklaces I picked up at a bargain.

Nanjing Yuhua stones are well known souvenirs. It's actually a mixtures of agate & other semi-precious stones. Similar to cloud watching, the various forms inspire poems & are meant to spark the viewer's imagination. No surprise my mom and I each got our own albeit similar stones.

Another item the region is known for, are their fans. I bought a sandalwood one that perfumes the air with the musky fragrance of sandalwood as you wave it. These are quite delicate and I have broken a few before. Hence, the hard case comes in handy. I wonder how people used to transport & store them?

Chinese calligraphy brushes and decorative inkstones.

We also made a quick visit to the artists district and I got a Jin Xuan Min photograph from his Shanghai studio.

China Holiday

This annual holiday was spent in China with my extended family. We went to Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wuzhen, Nanjing, Wuxi and Shanghai. These areas are famous for their picturesque scenery & beautifully landscaped gardens, the holiday destination of ancient times.

The above picture is of the famous view from Jichang Garden, Wuxi. Emperor Qianlong is said to have built a similar garden at his palace after visiting this place. The hills and pagoda in the background makes this garden look bigger than it actually is and enhances the overall scenery.

This was primarily a walking trip. We visited 4 gardens, 3 temples, 2 bridges and 1 film site. Sat on 3 cruises, watched 2 shows and ascended the tallest tower in China.

All the gardens have pebbles set into patterns on the ground (see above). If you walk barefoot on it, it supposedly massages your soles to improve blood circulation. Either way, it is very pretty. Can you imagine the amount of effort to pebblerize an entire estate?!

Wuzhen Water Town, a traditional housing development in 1700s-1800s that is in the process of being preserved. Towns were built near rivers with canals and bridges linking the many waterways.

The film site of the epic TV production Romance of the Three Kingdoms is turned into a modern day theme park resembling Universal Studios.

Meijiawu Tea Village where the famous and expensive Longjing Tea is grown. Said to be drunk by China's emperors. Longjing is the only alkaline tea I know of, with the addition of beneficial effects. I guess that's why it costs what it costs.

Then the food. Each region brews it's own beer so there are many brands to choose from. However, with only 3% alcohol content, it can be drunk during lunch as well.

You have to try the XiaoLongBao in Shanghai. Their famous soup dumpling (tang bao), where a straw in inserted for you to drink. It can be found almost anywhere.

A well known must try dish is Dongpo Pork. Named after Su Dongpo, the famous Chinese scholar/diplomat. The 5 layer pork (fat alternating with meat) is gently stewed to create a quivering mound of meat and fat that melts in the mouth. Unhealthy as it sounds, you have to try it at least once in a lifetime. The amazing feature is the fat that has been cooked to be in state in between liquefying into oil.

Of course, we also had the hairy crab feast. This being the season after all and Taiho lake being so close by. It was soo good that our tour guide brought back 60 hairy crabs for her family to feast on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Marvelous Cream

My favourite dessert bar. Japanese run, French recipes.

They mix ice-cream confections in front of you.

They also have cakes and other french desserts like creme brulee.

Back to the mixing. I ordered a chocolate banana with cream today.

Jewelfest 2009

Tianpo had a goodie bag booth at the entrance for their VIPs. Today is the first day the Jewelfest is open to the public, loads of champagne (Piper Hiedsieck), canapes and models in evening gowns and jewellery walking around. Probably to induce women to start their irrational buying.

Not much crowds. Mostly women in groups with only a few couples and even fewer families. I think women just enjoy buying jewellery for themselves. And there were lots of gorgeous jewellery and hard to find pieces here. I had a preference for the fire opal pieces. I found out it depends on where you find it. Australian Fire Opals have iridescent specks inside, Mexican Fire Opals on the other hand are completely clear. Hhmm, you learn something new everyday.

I bought a subscription to Solitaire magazine. It's supposed to be the consumer end of the publishers' offerings.

I couldn't resist the beautiful jewels and bought a tiny little watermelon tourmaline pendant.


Finally caught the original Stomp show at the Esplanade. Wildly successful, it has spawned several similar shows varying on the theme of percussion mix with a little dance and acting. The original turns out to be high energy, interactive and alot of fun to watch. Definitely recommend that you watch the original if you haven't seen it before.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Diamonds as accents

In jewellery making class you often hear how diamonds are used as accents rather than focal points. Yet any item increases 5 folds once this precious gem is added. Personally, I think both in cost and appearance. You get what you pay for and the devil is really in the details. Any jeweller passionate about his craft won't set a Burmese jade piece with cubic zircon. Yet I managed to find a jewellery store that sold the above ring, highly available mother-of-pearl with real diamonds, to beautiful effect.

Any diamond less than 0.3 carat in size is ungraded. So the difference is in the fire of the stone & the way it captures and redirects light, giving off a brilliance like no other. Ideally, it should have a disco ball effect across the room when the light falls on your diamonds. Any light, even when you are indoors. That is how refractive the precious stone is. When light enters at the perfect angle, it will create a mini supernova of a sparkle that should temporarily blind the observer.

That is why you need real diamonds to complement any other semi-precious stone or material when making jewellery. It is an enhancer or so I am told. Not the run-of-the-mill hobbyist tho'.

I found some pearl jewellery with interesting diamond settings. The above pair of earrings have bezel set diamonds encasing the pearl. The other has the diamond bezel set into the pearl itself! I think this is a fairly new (as in last decade) method that looks difficult to achieve commercially as pearls are generally soft.