Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Opal: Meaning + Significance

This magnificent jelly opal locket pendant was crafted in the Late Victorian Era. A detailed ornate frame, featuring Old World granulation technique with scrolling golden cords, houses a prong-set jelly opal crystal weighing greater than 20 carats. Mounted on the back, in a removable photo frame, is a black onyx tablet engraved with a love note from Joe to Nancy.

Opal has been the stone of choice for chiefs, kings, queens, and other royals throughout the ages. Ancient Romans believed opals brought good fortune. They wore opal as a symbol of hope and purity and believed that the stone protected them from sickness. The ancient Greeks wore opal to enhance their mystical powers of prophecy and foresight.

Aborigines believed that opals were the rainbow footsteps of the Creator. They believed the Creator descended to earth on a rainbow road, bringing a message of peace to mankind. Wherever his foot touched the ground, the rainbow crystallized into a opal stones, allowing man the opportunity to hold divine love and affection in his very hands.

Ancient Arabs believed that lightning had become trapped in the layers of opal, infusing it with a powerful play of colors. They believed that wearing opal would render one invisible. Ancient Indians also believed opals were a form of divine rainbow. In their case, they believed the Goddess of the Rainbow had fallen to the ground after being turned to stone.

These references to rainbows and lightning are no surprise. The play of color in an opal is absolutely mesmerizing. All the colors visible to the naked eye are accounted for, in some stones more than others depending on the variety and size of the opal.

Crystal healers and mystics believe that opal continues to harness divine power. It's play of color inspires lightness of heart, joy in the moment, and pure happiness. It is associated with flashes of intuition and is believed to heighten even the most mundane of experiences. It is believed to promote spontaneity and playfulness and is thought to enhance self-esteem and allow a person to express who they truly are.

Opal is thought to foster love, passion, warmth, enthusiasm, and creativity. It is said that wearing an opal jewel can soothe your mind, aid in transformation, give you happy dreams, release inhibitions, and drive away your fears.

Wearing an opal can also inspire loyalty, faithfulness, and warmth, leading to greater levels of trust and intimacy with those you are closest to.

If you'd like to experience the power of opal in your own life, we invite you to make an appointment to meet with one of our specialists who can show you a wide variety of opal jewelry to meet your needs.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Russian Wedding Customs

A Boyar Wedding Feast, painted by Konstantin Makovsky, 1883
Photo found on Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

When I think of Russia, I think of white snow and red cloaks. When I think of Russian weddings, I think of baroque churches and solemn rituals. Indeed, wintertime in a Russian Orthodox church would make a lovely setting for a Russian-themed wedding.

In my experience (which is primarily limited to movies, I'm afraid), Russians are serious and solemn, just as I would expect a Russian wedding to be. However, my research into the topic of Russian wedding customs tells a completely different story. In truth, a Russian wedding sounds like a treasure trove of fun, beauty, and joy.

A Russian wedding actually begins when the groom pays a visit to his bride-to-be's home. He is met there by a series of obstacles, set up by the bride's family and friends. The groom must pass a series of tests, and he must pay a ransom, often in cash or jewels, to those who stand between him and his bride.

Sometimes, a particularly feisty group will add an element of deception to the mix. After the groom pays for his bride, he will be escorted to a room where he sees a dressed and veiled beauty with her back to him. As he approaches, his "bride" will turn around. To his surprise a male cousin or elderly grandmother will be standing in stead for his bride, and he will have to pay yet again to make claim to his true bride.

After the fun and games are had, the couple pays a visit to ZAGS, the public services department where their marriage license is purchased and a brief civil ceremony takes place. This visit officially registers their relationship with the government, and is essential to the legalization of their marriage. Following their registration, the couple gets into a big black sedan with their closest friends and takes a tour of the most picturesque locations in their city.

This tour can last as long as three hours. Afterwards, if the couple has chosen to follow the civil ceremony with a religious one, the couple will arrive at the church. A Roman Orthodox ceremony is filled with candlelight, ritual, and ceremony. A full service is conducted, during which a service of espousal is added.

From the church, the couple is once again conducted in a big black car to the reception hall. Here a toastmaster (possibly a friend, but often a hired professional) begins the reception with a toast. Glasses are raised, and the wine is sipped. At this point a number of guests will shout "Gor'ko!" (Bitter!).

In order to sweeten the fruit of the vine, the couple must rise and kiss each other for as long as possible. The guests will begin counting, and if the couple has not been able to sustain a long enough kiss, cries of Gor'ko! will echo throughout the hall. The couple is made to kiss like this until the vine has become sweet! Cries of Gor'ko! will ring throughout the night, as the couple kisses their lips off!

Meanwhile, the toastmaster is responsible for keeping the mood light and fun. He/she will tell jokes, read poetry, tell embarrassing stories about the couple, and possibly even break out into song. His/her job is to keep the guests in high spirits and make sure that the mood never falls flat.

After the toasting period, which can last an hour or more, the dancing begins. The bride and groom dance the first dance, and after this the toastmaster is able to take a breath and relax. The entertainment is now at the mercy of the dancers and revelers.

Throughout the night, the groom will want to keep close watch on his bride. He must also keep a fair number of coins in his pockets. For if he does step away, his bride might be stolen. And if she is stolen, he will once again have to pay a ransom to get her back. This could happen all night long, so it might be wise to find a bathroom where the bride and groom can go off together to relieve themselves. This way, the groom will get to keep his coins and his bride for the duration of the night!

A huge feast is served after the dancing. After the feast, the guests go home and get some rest, for the party will resume the following day. On the second day another smaller feast is prepared, typically borsch or ukha. Not only are these delicious and comforting dishes, but they can also help relieve any hangovers from the night before.

The second day is far less formal, though toasts and cries of Gor'ko! can be heard throughout the festivities. After the meal, the bride must clean the floor in the room. Here is an opportunity for the bride and groom to recoup some of their paid ransoms from the night before. The guests are allowed, even expected, to mess the floor up so the bride must continue cleaning. The one rule: The guests must muss the floor with coins or banknotes. She is literally cashing in as she cleans!

Guests may also stage several other fun ways to help the couple financially, including lotteries, auctions, and other money-making schemes that keep the guests entertained and the money flowing freely toward the newlyweds. It remains the job of the witnesses (maids of honor and groomsmen) to ensure a fun and entertaining time for all. Drinking is essential, as the fun is only had when true drunkenness sets in.

After a wedding like this, their pockets lined with coins and cash, the newlywed couple will proceed on their honeymoon, or even just to their new home, alone and exhausted. But filled with joy and love and the goodwill of all those who know and love them.

Doesn't it sound far more fun and exciting than the solemn picture I had painted in my mind?

Perhaps a Russian wedding is in your future. If so, would you let us know which of these traditions you are most looking forward to experiencing as a bride or groom?

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tanzanite: Meaning + History

This glorious designer cocktail ring by LeVian is fashioned from solid 18k rose gold. Over 200 round brilliant diamonds pave the gallery, shoulders, and halo surrounding one of the most remarkable oval cut tanzanite gemstones we've ever seen. Weighing over 14 carats, this deep bluish-violet tanzanite stone performs with phenomenal light return. This is a rare and beautiful find, a tanzanite of such stunning clarity and size.

Tanzanite is a member of the zoisite family. Zoisite is a fairly obscure gemstone family consisting of several species of stones formed from silicates of calcium and aluminum. This yellow-brown stone acquired its name in 1805, when geologist Baron Sigmund Zois von Edelstein found it in Austria. It would be several centuries before anyone took any marketing notice of the zoisite family.

That notice came with the discovery in 1967, in Tanzania near the eastern shores of Africa. A prospector named Manuel d'Souza was hunting for sapphires in the northeastern portion of the country. Careful to make connections with the local tribesman, he finally hit the jackpot when a group of Masai natives guided him to the Merelani Hills, a stone's throw from Mount Kilimanjaro.

The purple-blue stones he found there had been circulating among the tribes for centuries. The Masai herders found the crystals scattered across the ground after lightning set a grassy field on fire, transforming the local brown zoisite into this mesmerizing new blue stone. Since then, the women of the tribe wore beads made from the beautiful stones, particularly after giving birth.

At first, d'Souza thought these stones were a variation of the blue sapphires he'd been hunting. But later testing proved them to be a rare and unusual form of zoisite. Three years later, in 1970, Tiffany & Co. acquired the lion's share of marketable blue zoisite.

Jeweler Henry Platt, working for Tiffany at the time, coined a new name for the beautiful stone: Tanzanite. For a number of years, Tanzanite enjoyed high fame. Tiffany's jewelers had a grand time fashioning gorgeous contemporary pieces from the lovely blue stone.

Crystal healers and mystics attached much in the way of significance to the newly discovered gemstone. Their beauty is thought to stir the mind toward communion with the heart, increasing compassion, spiritual insight, and connection to divine love.

Tanzanite is thought to be a self-actualizing stone. As such, it is purported to aid a person in discovering their true calling. It is believed to illuminate one's motives and purposes, aiding the soul-searcher to discover the reasons behind the choices they've made.

Tanzanite is believed to vibrate at an accelerated rate, infusing its wearer with joy, happiness, and relief from anxiety. It is said to allow access to the heart's wisdom, allowing one to evaluate the ideas of an activated mind with the wisdom of the ancients.

It is advisable to wear a tanzanite ring, pendant, or bracelet when you're facing significant life changes, such as a change in career. It is also recommended when facing communication difficulties, whether business or personal, and also when facing what seem to be insurmountable problems or obstacles.

Since Tanzanite is the birthstone of December, it is believed that these positive attributes of the gemstone will be enhanced for those whose birthdays fall in that final month of the year.

If you would like to feel the essence and power of Tanzanite for yourself, we invite you to make an appointment to meet with us in our Bellevue area showroom.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

KK: In Search of the Mystery Designer

We recently acquired a trio of stunning jewels all made by the same designer: KK. These jewels are of baroque design, featuring stunning semi-precious tourmalines in a range of colors, from ruby wine red, to murky yellow-green, to verdant shamrock green. These statement rings are astonishing in both design and execution.

Crafted from sterling silver and solid 18k yellow gold, these rings are masterpieces in design. The first is a north-south dinner ring featuring a cabochon rubellite tourmaline set bezel style in a halo of white diamonds. These are all set in a patina finish. Scrolling flourishes lead the eye to the stately panthers that lie atop and below the gorgeous central stone. On the bright yellow gold shoulders rest an almost-leaf-like flourish studded with diamonds set in channels of silver patina.

The second ring features a central bezel-set, shamrock green tourmaline surrounded by a halo of diamonds in an oxidized sterling silver channel. In brilliant 18k yellow gold, a pair of diamond-studded fleur-de-lis radiate in an east-west direction.

A bowl of yellow gold underlies the entire central design. This bowl is encircled by a double halo of diamond-studded silver. The outer rim is punctuated by evenly spaced dimensional bezels featuring smaller green tourmalines. The shank of the ring is completely etched in sterling silver, gilded by a rim of twisted yellow gold. The entire ring, underside and all, is a masterpiece in design.

The final ring in the KK mystery designer trio is a study in oxidized silver. The only gold can be seen on the inside of the band, in the twisted braid of gold around the gallery, and the gold bezel around the mossy green tourmaline cabochon placed at the center of this exquisite statement ring. Surrounding the bezel-set tourmaline is a rim of silver embedded with a halo of white diamonds.

Four points emerge from the halo, also studded in diamonds. A second halo forms the outer rim of the design and features square individual bezels in silver set with a single round diamond. The edge is trimmed in braided gold with four cabochon tourmalines set horizontally to the design. The band is coated in beautifully etched sterling silver. This ring is an understated wonder.

All of these rings are engraved with two letters, the only letters giving credit to the masterful mystery designer: KK. The letters are engraved within a horizontal etched diamond.

After doing extensive research online, I have been unable to track down this mystery designer. I've found a number of KK designers out there, but none of them equal the artistry of these beautiful rings. That is why we need your help.

If you have any information regarding the mystery woman or man behind these gorgeous Gothic rings, please get in touch with us. Simply fill out this contact form and let us know what you know.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Honeymoon Destination: Oak Island, Nova Scotia

Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia. Photo taken by Dennis Jarvis, 2012.
Sandy Cove is situated north across the bay from Oak Island.

Do you love moderate temperatures, crisp sea air, and pristine island views?

Are you inspired by a good old-fashioned mystery, one that has yet to be solved?

Are you in search of a romantic honeymoon with a touch of intrigue?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then may we recommend a honeymoon trip to Nova Scotia, with a tour of Oak Island thrown in for good measure?

Nova Scotia is a northern paradise, offering a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities. On a beautiful day, tour the zoo, visit a wildlife park, go to a fun park, or spend the day on the water. Nova Scotia offers year-round surfing, tidal bore rafting, kayaking, whale watching, hiking, and golfing.

If the weather is sour, then spend the day indoors. Visit the Science Centre, one of the provincial museums, or go see a play at one of the local theatres. Or visit an art gallery or boutique artisan shop.

Whether you enjoy shopping, sightseeing, water sports, or boating, Nova Scotia has it all. And if that is not enough to intrigue you, then Nova Scotia also has a 200-year-old mystery that has yet to be solved.

The seat of this mystery lies on a lush, 140-acre island off the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia. In 1795, Daniel McGinnis discovered an indentation in the ground on the island. He and his friends began digging in the area, only to discover a deep and mysterious man-made shaft.

After boring through layer after layer of oak-log platforms, charcoal, putty, and even coconut fibers, the boys hit a stone slab that was engraved with a message of symbols and shapes. They stopped digging for the night, thinking to return and continue their investigation the next day. However, when they returned to the site the following morning they found the deep shaft completely filled with seawater. No matter how hard they tried, they could not continue digging.

From that day to this, men from all walks of life throughout progressive centuries, including President Franklin Roosevelt and actor John Wayne, have tried in vain to find a way to stop the shaft from flooding. Over the years, it has been assumed that this elaborate man-made structure must be hiding something extremely valuable.

Could it be lost pirate treasure?

Or the lost Crown Jewels of France? 

Or perhaps the riches of the Knights Templar?

The most popular rumor is that Captain William Kidd hid his pirate treasure on the island before his execution.

However, to date it is all rumors and speculation. Whatever lies beneath the sea on Oak Island remains a mystery to this day. There's even a History Channel TV show about it: The Curse of Oak Island.

While it sounds like the mystery is very close to being solved by the island's current owner, Dan Blankenship, one thing stands in the way of what would become the find of a lifetime: a treasure trove license. Until Mr. Blankenship and his team of mystery hunters can find a way to convince the government to give him a treasure hunting license, the mystery will remain unsolved.

There is only one way now for visitors to see the site of this long-time mystery. Private tours are held just a few times annually by the Friends of Oak Island group. Their website has recently undergone an overhaul, currently they're offering $10 memberships that will enable members to purchase tour tickets before they open the tours up to the public at some point in the near future. Check out their website and consider making Oak Island and Nova Scotia your honeymoon destination!

If you do decide to make Nova Scotia your honeymoon destination, and you do make it on one of the Oak Island tours, please let us know what you learn about the mystery. We are waiting with bated breath to hear the latest news as it breaks over the next year.

Perhaps this will be the year that the mystery is solved once and for all!!

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Monday, January 4, 2016

History + Significance of Red Coral

Red, the color of power and passion, vitality and vigor, courage and boldness. It is a color for both men and women. For men, red represents victory, status, and personal power. For women, it represents independence, seduction, and personal power. The powerful effects of red reverberate throughout history.

Ancient Romans gave red coral to their children as protection from danger, evil curses, and disease. To other ancient people groups, red coral symbolized life and blood force, offering hope to those plagued by violent madness or deep depression. Red coral was used as a fertility charm, believed to regulate a woman's menstrual cycle and restore reproductive health.

In China, coral represents longevity, and in India it is believed to prevent hemorrhages. In many Old World cultures, red coral is believed to strengthen the blood. Ancient Egyptians believed that red coral contained traces of divine blood, energizing and granting wisdom to all who wore it. Ancient Greeks relied on red coral to bring them happiness and immortality, driving away illness and adversity.

Many ancients believed that the more conspicuously red coral was worn, the more effective its powers. Tibetan Buddhists and Native Americans associate red coral with creativity, passion, wisdom, enthusiasm, and romantic love.

Tibetan Buddhists also believe that all coral is an important gift of the sea, and that red coral represents the highest level of compassionate energy. Rooted in the earth but swaying freely in the ocean currents, it reminds us of our eternal foundations. Though we are rooted to our mortality upon the earth, our spirits live and breathe freely in the air of heaven. Coral also reminds us of our durability and strength. Though coral appears fragile, its skeletal composition makes it quite hard and durable.

Modern crystal healers lean on coral to provide strength to one's emotional core. Coral is said to promote inner peace, diplomacy, and stability. It is said to enhance wisdom and reduce stress and fear. It represents the transformation of that which is ugly into that which is beautiful. Immeasurable joy is thought to be the end result of the full manifestation of red coral's work.

Are you looking for a change in your life? Are you seeking transformation in some aspect of your life? Do you need personal power to overcome a deep wound from your past?

If so, may we recommend experimenting with red coral for yourself?

This gorgeous red coral ring may be just the choice for a man or a woman in need of the powerful divine life force of red coral. It features a substantial 18k yellow gold setting carved in intricate openwork style. The 5-carat red coral cabochon appears raw and ancient in its form, evoking red coral's ancient roots and powers of impartation.

We invite you to make an appointment today to sample the power of red coral. See what it can do for you.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lapis Lazuli: Symbolism + Meaning

Blue on blue - stunning! This gorgeous cocktail ring features a bezel set deep blue lapis lazuli cabochon surrounded by light blue turquoise half beads mounted in twisted yellow gold. This vintage ring features cathedral shoulders with a classically rendered wire work gallery underneath the stone. When it comes to celebrating the symbolism and meaning of December's birthstone, this ring is the perfect choice.

For over 6,000 years, this deep blue gemstone has been mined around the globe, most prominently in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Siberia, Chile, and North America. As seen in the upper portion of this 10-carat cabochon, the lazurite that comprises the main bulk of lapis lazuli is often shot through with shimmering golden pyrite and other compound minerals, including calcite which appears white and sodalite which appears light blue. The mineral compound called lapis is found most often in crystalline marble, where heat has caused the lazurite to intrude upon the marble.

Imagine yourself standing on a desert hillside where bulldozers cut away at the soil, exposing giant slabs of brilliant blue all around you. It must be so magical to be in the presence of raw lapis, particularly for those ancients who discovered the gemstone thousands of years ago.

Because of its bright blue hue and its suitability for carving, lapis is one of the first recorded gemstones to be worn as jewelry. Ancient Egyptians used it to fashion their all-important seals, their version of the modern signature required to transact business. They also carved it into sacred vessels, vases, and sculpted figurines. Its color invoked the essence of divinity, inviting its association with the gods, royalty, power, and spiritual insight.

Ancient Persians and pre-Colombian societies, as well as Europeans during the Middle Ages, revered lapis lazuli for its representation of the starry evening sky, and in the Orient it was relied upon for protection from the evil eye. It has been hailed throughout history as a stone of truth, wisdom, and recompense for sin.

The Ancient Egyptians also ground it down to use for eye makeup, a precursor to its use by Middle Age artists as the foundation for the first Ultramine blue paint used to capture the color of sky and sea. Ancient Romans ground it into powder which they mixed into their drinks as an aphrodisiac. Lapis lazuli can be seen in art the world over, from the mosaics of the Middle East and Africa, to paintings in Europe, to body ornamentation in cosmetics and jewelry across the continents.

Through the ages it has retained its symbolic meaning as a stone of wisdom and truth, believed to promote insight and even psychic ability. It is believed by crystal healers to stimulate the higher mind, elevating the thinking centers of the brain and enhancing the intellect. Thereby, it is a stone of learning, believed to spark a thirst for knowledge, truth, and understanding.

It is also a stone of truth, known to promote honesty and harmony in relationships. It brings about a clarity about oneself and aids a person in acceptance of her strengths and weaknesses. It is a stone of communication, believed to aid both writers and speakers in broadcasting their messages with clarity and authenticity.

Finally, lapis lazuli is believed to be a stone of joy, evoking positive feelings and thoughts. As such, it may bring a level of tranquility and peace to the person who wears it. Optimism and hope are the key to peace, after all. It is the stone of friendship, believed to strengthen the bonds of love and fidelity, inviting a deeper level of intimacy.

This makes lapis lazuli jewelry the perfect choice for the special person in your life born in December, be it a dear friend, a lover, or your brother or sister. We'd love to show this ring to you, as well as our other lapis lazuli jewels, and allow you experience the beauty and tranquility of this ancient stone for yourself. Call today to schedule a visit to our Bellevue showroom.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer