Thursday, October 29, 2009

Malachite: Let the bands play on

Malachite is a form of copper ore that doesn't look coppery at all. It's name is derived from the Greek word, molochitis, which means "mallow", a green herb. With its distinctive deep green bands, malachite provides gemmy green for a fraction of the cost of emerald, high-quality tourmaline or demantoid garnet.

Because it has a Mohs scale rating of only 3.5-4 (compared to diamond's 10), malachite is suitable for set pieces such as earrings or a necklace, but too soft for a bangle or some ring designs. It mixes beautifully with stones such as coral, mother-of-pearl, azurite, jasper and onyx.

However, with a bezel setting, malachite endures; here's my Scandinavian style malachite ring, at least 50 years old and wearing well. I'm enjoying a nice restorative apéritif, rosé champagne and yes, it IS after 5 pm. as I write.

Malachite is not a costly mineral; you can find tons of cheap malachite jewelry. However, when well-designed and set, this stone comes into its own. A three-inch Cartier lighter with a gold Bacchus head, ruby cabuchon eyes and malachite base sold at a Christie's auction last year for over $3,000.

Necklaces and pendants

24" malachite wheel beads and silver beads, $96.30 from Semiprecious.com. This necklace would layer well with a silver chain, and has enough presence to stand alone.

An exotic 18-inch
Onyx and Malachite Bead Necklace Black (bead detail shown left) combines faceted black onyx and carved malachite beads, spaced with discs of 18k vermeil, $295 from Ross Simons.



Flattered by the sensuality of silver, malachite is a favourite material for Native American designers. I'm discerning about my Native pieces. This 1950's pendant by Hopi artist Sekayumptwea Wally is special.

His work was exhibited in the Museum of Northern Arizona between 1950-1960. $250 BIN price from eBay seller inthelandofenchantment.

Rings

An 18 mm x 13mm (11/16th-inch) gracefully curved stone, simply mounted in 14k gold, puts a deep green pool on your finger. $250 from Ross Simons.

Our bloggoddess Belle de Ville has two intrig
uing rings
listed on her
Belladora II site. The first is a '70s carved malachite flower, 17mm, set in 14k yellow gold, very 'lady' but not too sweet, $335; size 5.

The second, from
the same era, is a crisply-tailored gold and malachite slightly domed gold ring with crescent-cut malachite sides, $346, size 6, with a Cartier vibe.

Either, worn with a black sweater framing that vivid green, is a signature accessory that lifts a simple ensemble.


Earrings

Ideal for someone beginning to collect fine jewelry, or for a splashy gift, these 5/8"-diameter gold-plated hoops by Viv & Ingrid are just $75 from Twist.



Malachite and onyx in statement earrings: 14mm x 11mm malachite discs hangin
g beneath 16mm x 12mm onyx discs, hanging length 2 1/8", set in 14k yellow gold; $150 from ice.com. International shipping.

A video feature on the listing allows you to see how the earrings move.

Ross Simon's malachite hoops (1 1/8" diameter) show off a range of banded greens, and are set in 14k; for $125, a tempting treat.


Malachite-dial watches



Gucci Malachite Dial Gold Signoria Watch, $5, 045 (sale price) at Authentic Watches, features 18k horsebit links; I love its Belle de Jour charm. The Signoria is also sold in silver ($1,226 on sale at Certified Watch Store).

Vint
age watch dealer Finer Times offer a sumptuous yet simple manual Longines watch, in near-mint condition, with a malachite dial and 14k case for $535.

Want fla
sh and rock-solid wearability? This Rolex Ladies Rolex DateJust Malachite TwoTone Oyster $5,399 from Best of Time has a baguette-diamond 18k bezel and a two-tone 18k and stainless steel bracelet. An assertively glam watch that stands up to serious wear.

And... one bracelet

If I were starting a charm bracelet, I would choose the Tiffany Jean Schlumberger 18k link charm bracelet, $1,500, and add a malachite egg charm, $900, inspired by a pendant for the 1960s. I'm not desirous of Tiffany charms in general– too twee, but this one... charms.

So far I have just the ring, but malachite's in my sights. The semi-precious gems are a good buy, if set with care and workmanship.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Slip into something comfortable

Few lingerie pieces are as alluring on 50+ woman as the graceful sisters: chemise, slip and teddy.

Skimming the body under a skirt or dress, they offer a light layer of femininity without constriction. I would rather wear a well-fitted chemise than a
binding elasticated 'control' garment, which often ends up rolling bits over the item anyway.

Worn under a blouse or glimpsed beneath a sweater, these garments are discreet yet sexy, and need not cost more than your shoes.

Teddies

A teddy was the precursor of the bodysuit, and lives on, appropriate under dresses or any pant except very tight styles.

Wearable teddies– also known as cami-knickers- are hard to find, but worth the search. Some are cut loosel
y, like a slip, while others fit as closely as a leotard.

Mimi Holliday floral silk teddy, $90, from net-a-porter.

Mary Green Nouveau Retro White Silk Teddy is stretch silk and pink lace, with fan bust darts. Sized in S/M/L; $60.50 from Mary Green, a beloved lingerie designer.

Sulis Silks offer a terrific teddy, the Helena, bias-cut in five panels for a fabulous fit, available in a wide range of sizes (UK 10 to 24); they also make a longer-torso option.

Though shown here on its own, a teddy looks lovely worn over a bra, too. In black or champagne, £36 (including VAT).
International shipping.

Chemises and slips

A chemise is a short version of the full-length slip; sometimes slip-style nightgowns are also called chemises. Some are intended solely as sleepwear; read the product description to be sure.

Silk Appliqué Chemise, by Elle MacPherson, a dreamy drift of silk and lace, $190 from net-a-porter. It's called "loungewear" on net-a-porter but I'd love to see its bodice peeking from under a black shirt.

Natori's Matisse Basic Chemise upgrades a basic lingerie wardrobe. it's a high-quality machine washable poly, so you don't have to baby it like pure silks (but wash in a bag), and it's smart. $155 from Saks Fifth Avenue.

For silk-only wearers, a rich silk charmeuse slip by Farr West, 22" from waist to hem, that comes in a wide range of sizes (XS to XXL). $164 from Her Room. Shown, black with ivory lace, also comes in ivory with ivory lace and red with red lace.

Oscar de la Renta Flamenco Dance Chemise (Plus Size), $54 from Bare Necessities, brings flounce to womanly figures. Available in pearl, 1X to 3X.

Once you acquire the requisite black or ecru, you might explore a world of colour in chemises.

Also from Mary Green, this charming Manon Printed Burnout Satin Chemise with Lace, $83.75. 70% silk, 30% rayon,cut on the bias. Mary Green's slogan is "Lingerie Conquers All". Will ship internationally, prepare to conquer.


Journelle, a New York lingerie boutique, offer the deep cobalt Julianne Rosalia silk chemise, a short slice of delectability, $190 in XS to L.

Some women are lingerie collectors, but for many, just a piece or two that winks below clothing boosts confidence and pleasure.

When my children were small, wearied and smeared by kiddie fingers, I would occasionally escape for an hour to a lingerie boutique, and emerge with a purchase, feeling more feminine than maternal. Though no longer a necessary respite, it's time to return to that world of delicate beauty. I'm longing once again for the luxury of lace next to skin, satin next to heart.


I have also noticed that one's partner rarely voices any objection to the purchase of gorgeous lingerie.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Christine's charms

I have mentioned my glamorous GF Christine before, and how I admire her magnificent vintage gold charm bracelet. Christine: French teacher; considerate, funny, frank friend; avid traveler, bombshell.


I was at her home recently, and asked if I could photograph it. Here it is in one view of its gorgeousness.

Many of the charms are jeweled, and all are overscale– huge, really– dating, we think, from the '40s to '60s. It's the bracelet of a traveler, with charms from most continents, with an emphasis on Europe, and one University of Toronto charm, so we're guessing she's an alumna.


The photo at left
is a bit blurry; I will blame the Manhattan her partner, Jim, served me. But I wanted to show the carved ebony Blackamoor head (just to the right of centre, and on its side) and a jade and gold disc.

It's the lavish jewels on most charms (jade, turquoise, tanzanite, tiger's eye, amethyst, pearl, and ebony) and high-carat gold that make her bracelet remarkable.

Christine found her treasure at a Toronto art and jewelry auction, and asked the imperturbable Jim to bid for her, a great strategy when your heart is racing and palms sweating. The bracelet sold for more than the estimate, but not (as Jim recalls) hugely over.

A charmed life

Beladora has a honey of a charm bracelet on her site, with an assortment of enamel and 12k and 14k gold charms dating from the '50s to '80s, $2,450.

Here's another world-traveler's trove, a collection from the '30s through early '60s from Ruby Lane seller 2 Sisters Jewels. Twenty seven charms, many jeweled or movable, in 10k and 14k on a 14k bracelet, $1,850.

Christine, though a mere child (not quite 50) did what I'd do: chose the most stunning bracelet she'd seen.

But starting your own is always an option. Your investment can be done in increments, and your friends or family can have the fun of choosing charms for you.


I'd start with this tailored vintage 14k bracelet from Ruby Lane seller Vintage Jewells, $450. (Silver charm bracelets are appealing too, but, captivated by Christine's, I'm partial to yellow gold.)

The
n I'd go to town buying sentimental antique charms, like this petite 18k disc with a white enamel terrier ($235 from Ruby Lane's The Three Graces) or a jeweled Tour Eiffel (which needs some pearls replaced), $85 from Ruby Lane's Mur-Sadie's Jewelry.

A charm bracelet is the story of a life, yours or someone else's. Either way, it is a lighthearted, and personal accessory, unique to it's collector. Christine's is, according to her, a pleasure to wear. And each time, she thinks of the unknown adventuress whose memory endures, on her arm.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Is the carré passé?


Our beloved blogger Deja Pseu, posting her reports from her most recent Paris trip, wrote "Much to my chagrin, I did notice that the only other women wearing Hermès carrés were quite a bit older and very conservatively dressed." Commenters confirmed her suspicion: the classic carré has been abandoned by stylish Parisiennes under, uh, seventy. Or eighty.

Hermès
scarves have always been bourgeois, proper "lady" wear, occasionally borrowed to wear ironically by teenaged daughters, but jamais cool. If you've never liked them, I'm not trying to convert you (salut, lagatta!). And I have disliked them on some women, even while wearing one!

I too had noticed their exile on my last several trips. One clue was the ample supply of Hermès scarves in the resale shops. My theory is that those who once wore the scarves don't like Hermès' rapid expansion, preferring to hold their artisanal patrimony closer to home. The thinking seems to be, "You can buy them at many major airports, and (even worse) online. Too common, too 'global'". Perhaps they are the canary in the coal mine, warning of the commodification of yet another of their great houses.

If you have but one, tant pis. But some of us have a collection. What to do? (The question applies to any enduring iconic object.)

You can
wear yours anyway, very casually and functionally. I mean, if the Queen can blow her nose into hers (as played by Helen Mirren in the film "The Queen"), mine can ride knotted inside a sweater, with jeans, or leaven my usual black-pants-and-cashmere-vee uniform.

On a dull day, the snap of a fine silk print warms my spirits like a portable solarium. Shown, me on this gloomy morning in "Les Parisiens", a very graphic pattern that includes a café dog.



Try it with your fa
vourite casual skirt and chic shoes, like the ensemble shown– hardly proper biddy gear!







Hermès' magazine, Le Monde du Hermes, pairs scarves with austere shirts or solid sweaters. Wear one with a tee and jeans, or as a belt.

The suit-and-scarf, a self-conscious presentation, screams 1980s realtor. Even a scarf worn with a constructed jacket feels a bit time-warped unless it has the relaxed attitude of a vintagey tweed or jean jacket. I still like the scarf tied to a bag.

Forgo complicated tie effects with lots of pleats and puffs. A carré ought not be tortured into a flower shape.


If you're simply no longer a fan, store them for a grand-niece, granddaughter or iconoclastic grandson who will treasure your bequest.

Or you could decorate: frame one, make cushions, or use a scarf as an original curtain tie-back. Drape one over a lampshade or the back of an upholstered chair. (Caution: make sure the bulb is low-wattage.)

Full disclosure


Stopping by the calm
Hermès boutique today with Le Duc, I fell in silk-print-love with one pattern. Despite reading Pseu's comment barely an hour before, I'd be delighted to enjoy one more addition.

The carré (or other shapes) has been his and my sons' traditional gift for decades, marking anniversaries, birthdays, Mothers Day, Christmas or achievements. One of the staff, who remembers helping the shy, excited six-year-olds choose a special gift, became a dear family friend.


Looking like a conservative Parisian grandmother is not an abhorrent outcome, even if I'm not quite not there yet.

"Bourgeois" as a label never bothered me, because I know these markers provide surefire camouflage for true subversives.
Waxed jackets, sailing shirts, oxfords, samovars, leather sofas, and Hermès scarves: these items content me far more than the strenuously hip.

I'm not going to wear a dress over jeans at my next decade birthday, I'm wearing this.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Udeman: Gabriel Byrne

After a pause, Udeman, the series that celebrates men past 50, returns!

Worked as a cook, archaeologist, Spanish teacher and bullfighter before turning to acting thirty years ago, at 29.

Fluent in Gaelic, he wrote his first drama, Draiocht, in Irish.

Well-known for his role as the troubled Dr. Paul Weston in the HBO series In Treatment, he returned to the stage in 2008 to play King Arthur in Lerner and Lowe's Camelot.


Byrne is a well-known Human Rights activist and was deeply involved with getting Amnesty’s Imagine campaign running. In fact, it was his inspiration, after hearing his niece's school choir perform "Imagine", that led Amnesty International's USA office to approach Yoko Ono with the idea for the campaign.

He is also a patron of Croi, The West of Ireland Cardiology Foundation. In 2004, he was appointed UNICEF's Ireland Ambassador.


"What is that song that Willie Nelson sang? 'Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few.' I think of that. No big deal. I've reached a stage in my life where I am content."

Gabriel Byrne explains the meaning of "bollocks", among other comments:




Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Easy Cocktails from the Cursing Mommy: New Yorker humour

If you are offended by what my mother called "language" (in a highly disapproving tone), you will not enjoy this New Yorker piece, so don't effing read it.

WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE; DISTURBING PORTRAYAL OF PARENTAL ROLE
The rest of you, click here for
Ian Frazier's "Easy Cocktails From the Cursing Mommy".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Graduation day

On Sunday, the family attended one son's university graduation. I was moved not only by Etienne's giddy, gowned delight, but also by the intense pride that radiated from the graduating students, shown in their shining young (and youngish, for the PhD.s) faces, the whoops of families, and even in the tangible pleasure of professors who were given teaching awards.

His alma mater, a large urban university, is known for the diversity of its student body and its dedication to equity, social justice and activism. Riven by a bitter labour dispute, the university was closed by a strike for nearly three months during the last school year, resulting in a chaotic extended schedule for classes and exams.

Though opportunity is a value of all educational institutions, the ideal rarely leaps off the institution's crest and into a crowd's collective heart. But surrounded by hundreds of grads, families, bouquets, the timeless pomp of the academy and our boy's enthusiastic, confident chatter about what's next, I felt the noble ideal come to life, as optimism and love suffused the hall.


I find myself deeply moved at certain ceremonies, even if not directly involved. Le Duc discovered me gazing from a Montreal hotel window at a wedding in the courtyard, teary and suffused with sentiment. And funerals? Even if I pass by in a car, I will be touched, and wonder about the life lived. Boy Scout inductions, christenings, parades, museum openings, bar mitzvahs, even elections stir me.

I revere community, celebration, the reminder of the values that strengthen society, especially participation and inclusion.
Fortunately, I can hold it together for store openings and product launches.

Well don't I sound...Canadian? And of course I sound like a proud parent, too!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vanity and aging

Vanity is "the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others", characterized by excessive pride. Vanity often concerns physical appearance, which is why a small case or types of cabinetry are called "vanity cases" or a "vanity".

Jane Austen differentiated between vanity and pride: "Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us."

We are all vain about something, even though we might not express it, or feign modesty (as women were taught to do) when complimented: "You have a beautiful singing voice." "Oh! Not
really."

Vanity is the distortion of a virtue, love, which includes love for one's self, just as gluttony is the exaggeration of healthy appetite.


I'm vain about my ability to make confident aesthetic choices. I'm vain about my curly hair, and I even feel vain
about being vain about it sometimes, because so many women conform to the sleek, straight look even if they have to go through all sorts of work to get it.

There are times though, when I am fed up with my vanity; I fire myself from claiming any specialness. I will see a decor article with its sumptuous pictures and think, "I could never assemble that audacious blend of colour, texture and objects!" I notice my hair is thinning as I age, so my vanity in being curly is not so certain. I am vain about my hands, especially my fingers, which are long, with strong nails. They are now crossed with prominent veins and plenty of wrinkles- I have to downgrade my vanity there, too.

If vanity is one's Deadly Sin of choice (mine is Sloth thank you very much, and I'll get back to you much later), aging is terrifying. The antidote for vanity is a practice of releasing some of the props and accepting what is.

Sometimes life does this for us as the years roll by, diminishing athletic skill or scratching up the lustre of youthful beauty. "What we would have others think of us", in Austen's words, is less relevant as we are released from the scrutiny of the world's judging eye.

As I age, I hope to retain a modest amount of pride, for it keeps me in the game, engaged with the world. My mother, at 98, wanted to be sure her lipstick matched her dress. But I will be relieved if I can shrug off the futile and false desire to receive continual confirmation from others.