Friday, May 29, 2009

Green gem for less green: Peridots

Most women know the 4C's of diamond buying (cut, colour, clarity, carat), but choosing coloured stones is a different story. Life in a stone is everything, and without the specific guidelines of cutting grade, the charisma is in the eye of the beholder.

For a great short tutorial on buying coloured stones, see "How to buy a gemstone in 7 simplified steps" from the Gemological Institute of America.

Peridot, the gem form of olivine, is a stunning example of a lower-priced coloured stone that provides beauty for much less than the "big four" glamour gems (diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald). Choose earrings or a pendant for everyday wear, or set peridot in a bezel setting in a ring rather than in prongs, because it's on the softer side, with a Mohs scale rating of 6.5.

Left, Elizabeth Locke peridot earring, from Trocadero.

These gemstones are of exceptional quality; the price, $2, 200 reflects Locke's reputation. The drops are detachable, the setting is 19k gold.

But peridot is a very accessibly-priced stone.

In the middle of the 1990s, stores of intense "Kashmir Peridot" were found in Pakistan. Peridot is also found in China, Africa, Australian and, in a more yellowish and brownish variety, in the U.S. The vibrant pistachio green of best stones make it ideal for summer wear, which might explain its position as the birthstone for August. Fine peridot has the colour of a new leaf, with just a hint of yellow, and life in the stone. Some inclusions are fine.

Shopping for peridots

I always have my eye out for nice peridots, not that easy to find. Ask your jeweler to source some, or check vintage jewelery stores.

Top, a peridot flower ring set in 14k gold, $225 from Ruby Lane seller Barnsley Collection, and bottom, an Edwardian peridot and blue topaz lavalier, $325 from Ruby Lane seller Exceptional Vintage.

Ethnic stores that sell goods from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are promising places to scout. Small peridot beads are reasonable, and look good massed; avoid muddy, too-pale pastel stones. Bead stores sometimes carry nice peridot beads, which you can have strung as you like.
On the net


This interesting scarf necklace, which you could tie various ways, is from Novica seller Matta, on sale for $296.

This essence-of-green necklace on eBay, from seller rajasthan jewellery for a BIN price of $120, would be a stunning accent against a summer blouse.

Blue Nile carry these opulent 7mm 18k white gold-set studs.

A
most reasonable $100, backed by their guarantee, delivered in two days; don't think you can go wrong here! You might put bigger backs or discs on them so they hold neatly to your ear.

Though sometimes known as "the poor man's emerald", peridot differs from fine emeralds, which are more a saturated hue and often bluer, but they do resemble very pale emeralds. And make no apologies; enjoy
peridot on its own luminous merits.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Isle of Capri

I love getting requests; Breena asked about capris, the calf-length pants we associate with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Sabrina. "Are they still stylish?" she wondered.

I'm in the position of commenting about a pant I haven't worn since I was a slender 30 year old, but my GF Christine, who's approaching 50, looks ravishing in hers. Breena, if she wears them, they're still stylish.

W
ear capris with the spirit intended by Sonja de Lennart, the Prussian-born designer credited with their invention. She named them after her family's favourite vacation spot.

In 1948, she created a tight, three-quarter length pant with slits on the outer hems, in specific lengths for summer and winter wear.
Shown, the ankle-length winter style, with capri blouse and belt, from de Lennart's first collection.

There are three things you need to wear capris well, which is not as easy as, say, jeans. Some stylists advise women to just forget this demanding pant unless they are runway-model types.

1. Shapely
ankles
(That disqualifies me right now, but you may proceed.)
You'll also benefit from smooth, unblemished skin on your calves, since capris are never worn with hose.

2. A well-cut pair
In 1952's Roman Holiday, Audrey was dressed by Edith Head in de Lennart-designed tight capris; Givenchy kept the look alive for Sabrina in 1954. Audrey's capris, a departure from Katherine Hepburn's wide, pleated trousers, took the world by storm.

The closely-fitted pants flatter those with slim hips, flat stomachs and a well-shaped derriere. Just because the pant is short, do not focus only on where it ends. How does it fit in the waist, hip and seat? Good capris never have elastic waists and could not be worn for yoga. Capri-length leggings are not capris.

3. The kind of figure to carry off a close-fitting tucked top (as shown on all photos) or if not tucked, a top that ends at the waist.

The narrow, rather short top creates balance for the abbreviated pant length, essential to avoid the gym-teacher effect.
You need not be small-busted if you don't mind showing off your shape in the closely-fitted top. Anita Ekberg, Gina Lollobrigida and Jane Russell all wore capris, along with their lithe counterparts like Juliette Greco.

Wear your capris with balmy shoes, suitable for lunch in a cafe on this most romantic isle. I like ballet flats, wedge espadrilles, or strappy sandals like the yellow pair shown with J. Crew's Brushstroke Café Capri.


You might also wear capris with heels, a dressier look; again, these are from J. Crew, who offer plenty of of choices, from silk to poplin, each summer.



I
find a longer, wider pant like the white Gap crop below more forgiving than the capri- so if, like me, your capris have gone the way of minis, don't despair. There's a summery pant for everyone.

Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style posted on "Why You Shouldn't Wear Ankle Length Pants", and many of her points pertain to the other members of the abbreviated-pant family like clamdiggers, toreadors and pedal pushers.

Imogen says, "Unless you have ultra long legs (like a model), then ankle length pants should be avoided as they are almost universally unflattering. If you feel you must wear them, they need to be skinny, not wide (which doesn't suit the 8, X or A shapes out there) and worn with a high heel."

But for decades, the women have tried to channel Audrey, the sprite who cycled in narrow ankle length pants worn with ballet flats.

In the 60's, Babe Paley, Slim Keith and Jackie Kennedy wore the ankle-length version in wool or silk with sandals and a simple sweater, a socialite look seen to this day.
Some of the 2009 capris have crept noticeably shorter than the '50s version; J. Crew's look closest to the originals.

If you love the playfully sexy look of capris, experiment with proportion, insist on perfect fit, and face the fact that over fifty, abbreviated and tight
anywhere on your body needs more consideration than it once did.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Buffalo and brawn

On Friday, Le Duc and I decided to take a last-minute getaway excursion to Buffalo, New York.

We had a list: see the newly-restored Frank Lloyd Wright ma
sterwork, the Darwin Martin House, visit the Albright-Knox Gallery, tour the renowned horticultural gardens, hit Suzy Q's BBQ shack ("A Little Pit of Heaven"), but mostly we wanted to ogle the nearly endless examples of mid-20th century architecture in what was once one of America's grandest and wealthiest cities.

Buffalo delivered all delights except the gallery (closed for a week due to cost-cutting measures), and like any good getaway, offered us new discoveries, most notably Beau Fleuve, a charming, luxurious B&B.

Touring the areas where robust manufacturing and shipping industries once thrived, I thought of Toronto Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente's comments on Saturday, May 23, in her column "We are witnessing the passing of working-class masculinity". Wente said, "As low and semi-skilled manual jobs disappear, working-class men are getting hammered- and so is their masculinity."

She cites a 'recent British study'. (Why no citation? This one reason I am frustrated by Wente's writing.) An academic investigated why so many men who had l
ost industrial jobs in Manchester were unemployable. Some of the men interviewed had tried their hand at retail or other service jobs, but washed out. One man said, "If someone (a customer) gave me loads of hassles, I'd end up lamping them."

Wente summarizes the study: "The defining value of working-class masculinity is the ability to stuck up for yourself when someone tries to g
ive you shit. The defining requirement of service work (in their view) is having to eat it. Service work is a fundamental challenge to their masculine identity."

Buffalo's might was powered by the Manucians' counterparts, men who did dangerous, dirty work on docks and mills, in plants and grain elevators- as well as bankers and businessmen, academics and inventors.

Today, Buffalo's largest employ
er is Kaleida Health. Health care professionals have replaced steelworkers, and new information-based businesses abound. Besides technical aptitude, the abilty to relate to people is an essential component of patient-care and customer-service occupations, resulting in what some call "the feminization of work".

As I looked at the art-deco might of City Hall, the Louis Sullivan-designed Guaranty Building, and empty mid-20th century warehouses of hushed beauty, I thought about the men who once held jobs that valued physical strength and competence, requiring them to, in Wente's words, "work exclusively alongside other men in jobs that did not require them to put on a social mask, and did not call for aptitude in managing their emotions."

The benign neglect of Buffalo, a city that let its treasures simply sit for decades, has preserved the artistry of its architecture. At the same time, how people make their living has forever changed, like so many other communities.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy birthday, goddess: Pam Grier

Pam Grier turns 60 today.

Actress, singer, first African-American woman to app
ear on the cover of Ms magazine (August 1975). Came from a poor family who homesteaded in Colorado before Emancipation. ("My family was very, very receptive to all, all races and religions.")

Sang back-up for Bobby Womack. Filmed seventy segments as Kit Porter in The L Word. Famous for both 1974's B-movie, Foxy Brown and Tarantino's 1997 Jackie Brown.

"I can't talk about myself. I just can't. I know I've influenced women and I'm proud of that...
Foxy Brown actually approached me at the beginning of her career and asked me if she could use the name. I told her, 'You don't need to ask'.

If you're an independent woman,
every woman is Foxy Brown."



Happy Birthday to
the inimitable Pam Grier!




Monday, May 25, 2009

Giftwhacked

... is my term for the occasion when you receive something that is really not 'you', but you think you are obliged to wear, display or serve. I have a drawer stuffed with Giftwhacks.

Some are real head-scratchers. How is it that my in-laws see me as someone who would wear gauze harem pants? Others are clearly something that the giver thought was nice, but not remotely something I'd wear: oversized, lifelike bird earrings. (What bird, I am not sure, maybe a condor?)

Then there are the simply
badly-made items, like a necklace that always turns itself wrong side out, and scratches so badly that my chest looks like a TB test site.

The answer of course is Goodwill. But what if they visit, and look eagerly for the tole-paper cat collage?
My illogical solution has been to keep some of these items, but not display. That way, if SIL asks about the cats, I can say, "Oh, it's right here..." But SIL has not visited in the 15 years since she gave me that gift (she lives far away; we meet in Florida) and has in fact forgotten it. I've also offered a few jewelry items to my sons to re-gift, because, though appealing, they are simply too young for me.

How to avoid Giftwhacking?


1. Give the right thing
The simplest way is to
tune your ears like a bat and listen for what the recipient longs for. Your sister may mention, leafing through a Garnet Hill catalog, that she "loves that Simon Pearce". Never mind if you find the designs bland; this is for her.

For more thoughts on attuned and artful gifting, read my series of posts under the label "There Will be Gifts".


2. When in doubt, give comestibles
It helps to know
if the person loves Grand Marnier, is allergic to nuts, or mad for milk chocolate, but not dark. They'll enjoy a treat, and won't be subjected to your scanning gaze as you clock their kitchen for that cute cookie jar.

3. Give an experience
A manicure/pedi
cure, theatre tickets, dinner for two, a river raft trip... endless possiblities. My office mates gave me a cut at my salon.

Just be sure they can swap a service if, say, they'd rather have a facial at the spa, and that there's a long enough window for booking; a year is good.


4. Desperate times call for desperate gift cards

The bottom-feeder of the gifting world, use these only if, for example, your opera-lover craves more CDs but you don't know what's in his collection.

If I absolutely have to give a GC, I will write a very personal note to accompany it. Teens are enthusiastic recipients of GCs, but anyone over 25 should learn conscious gift-giving.

Whoops, I Whacked

I gave a friend a set of bath products, and saw that a year later, she gave them to her mother. Turns out she only showers. Le Duc has a petrified bag of Starbucks chocolate-covered espresso beans in his sock drawer, from me. Apparently there are some things a wife does not know. Live, learn and do not take it personally.

Make gifting a guilt-free zone

The Whackee is free to do whatever with your gift, which is another way of stating my mother's advice, "Give with an open hand".

I gave my
SIL an exquisite hand-bound journal. She told me later that she had given it to one of her students, to support the girl's writing. I was initially irritated, but then accepted that it was hers to do with as she wished.

In some cultures the recipient is obliged to display a gift, wanted or not. (One of my friends said she was grateful for the small house fire that destroyed her former mother in law's gifts of her sculpture.)
I'm happy to see this rule melt away along with not taking the last cookie on the plate.

As we vow to decrease clutter and "more" becomes a questionable goal, guilt-free disposal of Giftwhacks is finally coming out of the overstuffed closet.

Friday, May 22, 2009

How can you tar electronics and jewelry with the same brush?

Nick Paumgarten's May 18 New Yorker essay, "The Death of Kings" has fans, detractors and others who have given it a mixed review, but by now many have read it.

I've been mulling over the notion of three categories of spending outlined in part of the piece, (Mandatory, Discretionary, Frivolous); "frivolous" includes electronics, jewelry, and art works.

The budget for "Frivolous" items pretty much goes out the window with financial wipeout. When every penny goes to keeping a family afloat, the last thing to spend on is a bauble or hottest iToy.

Today I dropped into Winners (our Century 21) to check for discount yoga wear. Passing the jewelry counter, I saw an eight-strand necklace of luminous small keshi pearls, strung with chunks of peridot, amethyst, topaz and citrine. I liked its design; the stones were bright and well-distributed. I tried it on. It was one of those "almost, but not quite" pieces. Part of me thought, "Only $75, it's close enough."

But it's not a bargain if it doesn't delight. I was sorry it just missed.

Styles change, but I'm hoping for at least 15 years of regular wear from a serious purchase. I can't put a dollar value on 'serious' but you know, you think about it, because you could do a lot of other things with the money. (Shown, Platinum and ruby art deco ring from Kitty Jewellery blog.)

For lower-ticket items like the Winners necklace, I look for that "Oh, I want to wear it tonight!" feeling, aesthetic pleasure, and the satisfaction of a good buy.

But that "frivolous" category is gnawing at me.
I suppose the term is apt, but I love the way a necklace or pair of earrings renews the clothes you've had for awhile, and I'm not alone, am I?

I know women who have no interest in accessories; I don't get excited about a new set of power tools like my GF Bonnie. Everyone has her delights. But more often, I notice how a woman is nourished by the beauty and artistry in a piece, and that she feels better when she puts on her favourite ring or watch.

Chanel said, "There is not a woman alive who does not know how to wear jewelry."
I think of my mother, pinning her enameled dragonfly brooch to her silk dress, lifting her head with confidence, and walking into a room to greet her guests.

Jewelry connects us to a deeply feminine aspect of adornment, to the sensuous celebration of every woman's beauty. Overdone, we look ostentatious and desperate. But that is rather hard to do, since piled-on is as prevalent as discreet these days.

Though jewelry is placed in the same "Frivolous" category as electronics, it is not the same thing. I don't care if I ever own an iPhone, but I do hope there is a new bracelet in my life before I leave, in pearls, for the sweet hereafter.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vinaigrette, mayo and aioli

When one of my sons was five, a friend who made hand-painted sweatshirts asked him what he liked. He told her, and received a white sweatshirt with "J'aime la vinaigrette" on the front.

With more fresh vegetables available by the week, I once again appreciate an assertive vinaigrette; just a scant teaspoon drizzled over blanched vegetables lifts a plate.

There is no real recipe, just a general proportion of 3 parts oil (I like cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil) to 1 part vinegar (of medium strength), and salt, pepper, mustard, wine and chopped herbs according to taste. The teaspoon or so of mustard helps emulsify the oil and vinegar, and a clove of peeled, minced
garlic is a pungent delight.

Mayonnaise is the next stop on the oil-and-vinegar pleasure tour, and if you have practiced basic emulsification on vinaigrette, creating this magical suspension is easy. You will never eat the bland gunk in the supermarket jar again. You have to finesse it a bit, slow and steady, and don't make it in an impending thunderstorm- that old tale is true. The humidity makes emulsification impossible.

Here's a great illustrated recipe that walks you through the simple steps: How to Make Mayonnaise.

Can there be something better? Yes, aioli.

This mayonnaise, laden with a very generous lashing of fresh garlic, is superb with vegetables, chicken or fish.

To make aioli, pop four or five (peeled) and very finely chopped cloves of garlic in with the eggs and vinegar (or lemon juice) before you start adding the oil. It’s that simple.

"This is so good we should share it!"

In Provence, grand aioli (or aioli monstre) parties happen in summer, but you can do an one just as successfully in spring, and to me it's even more heartening to see all those beautiful vegetables right now. The party is easy to prepare because everything can be done ahead and is intended to be served room temperature.

The attitude is like a picnic: set a long table simply, and prepare for an festive time. In southern France, you show up with your plate and cutlery, pay your fee, grab a chair, and dig in. The appetizers are bowls of olives, cherry tomatoes, sliced hard sausage, roasted almonds; keep it light.

For the grand aioli, serve heaping, colourful platters of raw, grilled or blanched vegetables. (Asparagus, zucchini, carrots, fennel, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, broccoli, beets- really you can use anything.)


Sometimes sauteéd chick peas (in olive oil, bay leaf, garlic and herbs) are on the platter. And more platters: boiled new potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, roasted chicken or fish (poached salt cod or salmon is traditional). I've also seen shrimp, calmari, mussels and tiny snails offered on the platter.

Strew baguettes and many bowls of aioli about the table. Provide rafts of rosé and carafes of water. (I had to add that water part just to sound responsible.)

Guests fill their plate with a bit of everything, and add dollops of aioli for dipping. Fingers are fine!

Our dinners have been so enthusiastically received that Le Duc has to repair to the kitchen to make
more aioli, which is harder after a few glasses of rosé.

Dessert is simple; I like to serve fruit gelato and homemade almond cookies.

A warm, relaxed and memorable party for people who love garlic. (You could always make a few bowls of tarragon mayo for anyone who doesn't eat it.)


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

UdeMan: Mike Davis

American writer, professor, activist, historian, scholar, urbanist, trucker, meat-cutter.

His book "Monster at Our Door" describes the path of the next (or current?) flu pandemic, and addresses the intertwined health and political issues inherent in any viral storm.

His best-known book, "Planet of Slums", generated both acclaim and controversy for its bold analysis of the global, poor, urban cities proliferating in our time.

A self-described "Marxist-Environmentalist", Davis refuses to accept the easy assurance that the poor can lift themselves up, when regimes are corrupt and the food riots begin. Sometimes criticized as bleak and overly apocalyptic, I find Mike an open-eyed realist and a good counterargument to the "technology will save us" train of thought.

Davis doesn't say the urban situation is hopeless, he tells us why gangs have replaced government in the running of entire sections of difficult, complex and rapidly polarizing rich/poor cities.

I'm such a fan that I will offer him my first-born to mentor and mo
ld. (Son happens to be an Urban Studies major.)

Mike, mentor him in your firebrand politics and superb research and writing skills, impart your vision of a world disabused by bland assurances that technology or economics will rescue billions.

Mike Davis lives in San Diego, has taught at the Southern California School of Architecture, and has written 15 books. Married to the Mexican artist Allesandra Moctezuma, Davis has four children.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The fragility of "reputation"

In Canada, we are having a reputational meltdown. In the past week, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney tried to explain away large, unreported (for six years) cash payments that he received from a German-Canadian businessman, three years after he left office.

A Liberal Member of Parliament, Ruby Dhalla, responded to allegations that she illegally employed and mistreated three foreign workers. She refuted the charge, saying this is a smear campaign to "wreck her reputation."

I have no special knowledge of these two cases.

I'm closer, however, to the background of a
local personage recently profiled in a book. Her story is dramatic tale of adversity, courage and eventual triumph over the most destructive and repugnant forces of recent history. Though I have not yet read the complete piece, excerpts are compelling.

Some of my friends and acquaintances were her business associates and employees. Their experiences over decades has led them call her "greedy", and "mean"; the saddest remark I heard was, "She is alone. No one will have anything to do with her."

Who is she, really?
The triumphant survivor? The woman so difficult her own family avoid her?

Few of us have but one reputation.


My father, for example, was adored by his patients, and I saw him demonstrate unfailing kindness to them. But at home he was often cutting and difficult.
Some variation between the public and private person is inevitable- we contain both noble qualities and a dark side, and are usually more inhibited or careful when we display our public persona.

A key challenge in mature adult life is the realization that I can no longer excuse certain behaviours of mine as "immaturity" or "finding myself".
It's time to consider whether I will, despite my flaws and failings, make a contribution to others' lives or take them down.

My friends' and acquaintances' response to the hagiographic profile was a wake-up call. People have long memories, and if someone has been cheated, deliberately hurt or views the representation as notably inauthentic, they'll say so.
A reputation is a collective judgment.

And some people don't care what anyone thinks of them. "That's life", they'll say quite blithely, as they smash into someone's car door in a parking lot, and if they think no one looking, drive away. (I saw this happen.) But in my work, reputation is essential, and in private life, I'd rather be appreciated than avoided.

Time for me to pay renewed attention to both the inner and outer person, to what the world receives from me as much as what I desire from it.
As Socrates said, "The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear."

Monday, May 18, 2009

The con: Ricky Jay and Nick Paumgarten

A recent article in The New Yorker, "The Death of Kings" by Nick Paumgarten, May 18, 2009, provides an tour through the stations of the current financial hell, from the earliest signs (between four and one hundred and two years, depending) to full-blown imminent-disaster predictions.

Even though you may have read extensively on the topic
, this story is exceptional, a gripping overview of the mess illuminated with anecdotes. A private-equity executive Paumgarten interviewed said that he sensed the jig was up when his cleaning woman in NYC took out a subprime loan to buy a house in Virginia.

And you get a peek how people used to life in the tippy top income bracket are coping. A Wall Streeter advises his buddies who have lost at least half their net worth to have what he terms "The Conversation" with their partners, an event that he warns may result in termination of the relationship.

The Conversation lays out "our budget from now on". The man advises dividing expenses into three categories
:
1. Essential: Your mortgage or rent, food, gas and other requisites.
Pay your expenses, maintain your credit rating.
2. Discretionary: Private school tuition, clothing, entertainment, massages and personal trainers, etc.

Cut by 50%.

3. Frivolous: Jewelry, art, travel, toys like boats and fancy cars

Cut by 85%.


I liked this short, sharp three-bin plan.

Some people will say, "Ha! I never had money for category #3, or even much of #2", but remember, these high-flyers did. As someone obs
erved in the article, dropping from 15 to 1.5 million in assets is a terrifying plunge, if that's what you were used to.

You can read an abstract at The New Yorker site; the compete article is available only to magazine subscribers. Or read it for free at the library.

During the same week, Le Duc and I went to see Ricky Jay perform his new show, "A Rogue's Gallery" and guess who was up on stage with Ricky?

You should have seen Le Duc shuffling! Ricky dealt into his hand, and Le Duc confidently counted the cards he held: s
ix. Then, after a few quick words, how many cards now? "Seven", said a dazzled Duc.

One card of six held by an equally baffled woman, standing at the other side of Jay, had somehow left her hands and appeared in Le Duc's.

Isn't that's what the whole easy credit scam did? People thought they held an extra card for no effort. But it's a mug's game: in the end, all the cards are the lender's, and many borrowers have nothing left, not even the homes they mortgaged.

Jay, in a CBC radio interview with Jian Ghiomeshi the day before his Toronto opening, said that greed was the quality necessary to pull off a con, and that many people had succumbed to this vice in recent times. "It starts small", he said, "with something like downloading music you don't pay for. It's easy to fish them in from there."

Asked if he ever used his powers to fleece someone, Jay cited his grandfather, a magician and beloved mentor. " 'Don't ever play cards'", Jay said he told him. " 'If you win, they'll think you're cheating, and if you lose, they'll think you're a lousy magician.' "

My souvenir of "Rogue's Gallery" was one of Jay's cards, appropriately, the King of Diamonds.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chains, chains, chains

One of my GFs recently said, "I have begun to want to wear more jewelery", and asked what I thought would be an essential first piece, after her wedding ring.

I suggested a beautifully-made chain necklace, in a 16 to 18-inch length. You can wear it
alone, or add a pendant. A chain fills in a neckline, updates classic pearls, or polishes a simple tee.

Many chains are generic; hold out for something perfect. The right one will have some w
eight and detail, unlike the thin gold threads offered as high school graduation gifts. (Melt them down or give to a young niece.) Let's avoid the Mr. T look, but still show some attitude!

The price: hundreds for for silver, up to thousands for for gold. Plate will do for occasional wear, but for a chain that becomes part of your body, buy silver, gold or (steep intake of breath) platinum. You'll feel the difference every time you put it on.

Chains in Silver

Beautifully-wrought silver is wearable and elegant. Look for just enough detail to take it from plain to pleasing.

Hi, Bali: John Hardy Silver Oval Link Necklace, Short (18"), $995.
Oval links of dotted sterling silver alternate with smooth links
; the 1 1/2 by 1" link proportion lends presence without overpowering. The Balinese dot technique gives it an ethnic vibe. Great for everyday.

Saks Fifth Avenue carry this, among other chains. They will ship most goods internationally to 34 countries if the value is $2500 or less.

Good DNA: I'm also liking this reproduction of a William Spratling design, a silver "DNA" necklace. The ovals and barbells (shown in detail at left) twist in a helix around one another for more texture than classic links.

It's from eBay seller cotoliro, from whom I have happily bought. The chain is 20", perfect if you who need or prefer a bit more length, and at $240 for 170 grams of 925 silver, reasonable.

Toujours Chic: The 17" chaine d'ancre, to wear every day and bestow one day, $1, 125 from Hermès web site or in boutiques.


Chains in Gold


There are many offerings in the gold chain universe; I'm not showing those you might think of first (David Yurman, Tiffany, Van Cleef clovers); for my money there are too many knock-offs. If you're buying gold, choose at least 18k so your chain looks sensuous and develops that glowing patina.

Versatile minimalist: Far left, This Temple St. Clair chain has more interest that a boring box link, and layers well with other necklaces or carries a pendant.
Temple St. Clair 18k Ball Chain, 16", $450 from Saks.

Investmen
t: Near left, the Faraone Mennella Small Chain Necklace, 18". Always on my wish list, a classic; $3, 100. (Saks will not ship this piece but other sources include FM's New York boutique, Bergdorf Goodman and Holt Renfrew in Canada.)

Luxury: From Bergdorf Goodman, Yossi Harari 24k gold Marina Wave Necklace, $5,075. The grace and fluidity of this handcrafted piece, enhanced by the richness of highest-karat gold. If you can find a handmade chain, the character imparted by the artist will be be evident.

Watching my pennies: Nancy Caten's 16" gold-filled chain with hammered rings offers elegance for a modest outlay, $175 from Fragments. A good buy if you're trying out how much you'd wear a chain.

Womanly gold: Ray Griffiths' 18k yellow gold cloverleaf necklace is so distinctive that I wanted to show it in detail. Sumptuous yet airy, this is a grown-up chain, priced ($2, 600) to match.

Past 50, I think we should consi
der this level, and I'd save for it over a number of bitsy pieces.

Hip Parisienne: Ann Gerard is one of my favourite jewelers in Paris. Here's her Collier "Oval", in green gold, 55cm (21 in.), €1280. As Ann says, "Put it on and you're dressed." The paperclip chain can be worn as a necklace or lariat.



Chain with jewels: My friend Joyce friend says, "If there are no diamonds on it, it isn't jewelry." This one's for you, Joyce, except it's ruby, because you already have your Diamonds by the Yard chain.

The 18" Anthony Nak Ruby Briolette Necklace adds rubies shelled in gold, stationed at 2" intervals. This is another piece that looks great worn alone or layered with favorite necklaces. $1,200 from Twist Online.

And now, Sister Ree: