Blue heaven: topaz pieces, sale alert!

A stone of depth and personality, topaz is most commonly-found in the blue variety.

Sale Alert!
Many pieces below are from Ross Simons; I'm posting today so you can catch a big sale, which ends August 2.

Get the blues

Blue topaz is one of the most-common gemstones, quite sturdy and abundant. It's also the official state stone of Texas. The blue comes from irradiation, a stable, safe and accepted treatment.

As with all coloured stones, a lively, transparent colour is paramount. You'll see a range of hues from palest blue (similar to aquamarine) through the popular pool-coloured "Swiss Blue", the deeper "London Blue" (shown, left), teal and the darkest, royal, which looks like sapphire, but more translucent.

I like to see b
lue topaz treated like one of the finest gems, set in high-carat gold.
Though I wear silver often, darker metal can drain topaz' character.

Birks Toni Cavelti Buff-top Blue Topaz Drop Earrings in 18kt Yellow Gold Price: $575. This is the palest I would buy, and see these earrings on a blonde.

7mm (about the size of a 1ct diamond) studs set in white gold, $135 from Blue Nile, a vibrant "Swiss Blue" for a good price.

Pearls and multi-shaped topaz on a 1 1/2" white gold hoop for $175 (and 15% off) from Ross Simons. Charm, movement, pleasing proportion, and the price is pleasing too- I'd expect to pay about this for the gold hoop alone.

Notice anything new, dear?

The relatively low cost of blue topaz gives you some serious real estate for your buck, so if you love statement earrings, check these.

Two tones of lush pear-cut topaz in a classic style: the bottom stones are 16x12mm (10 carats each), the top are 12x8 mm, and the setting, 14k yellow gold.

Price is $395 and there's currently a sale, 3
0% off and free shipping in the USA from Ross Simons. Oh, baby!

Turquoise and blue topaz ring, with a chunky 12x10mm Swiss Blue centre stone flanked by two turquoise cabuchons, set in 14k yellow gold.

Wear this summmer with white jeans or LBD, and in winter as the antidote to gray and gloom. $335 but again, 30% off through August 2 at Ross Simons.

Plays nicely with others

Blue topaz brightens multi-gem pieces. This 18kt yellow gold necklace features semi-precious buff-top gemstones of 9 x 7mm, and three each of peridots, amethysts, citrines, blue topaz and garnets. From
Birks, $3,550.

At Ross Simons, a lower-priced version of the multi-stone chain, 11 stones of the same mix set in silver, $95 for the 18" length. I'd happily wear either!

Even more of a bargain is this pretty pair of Ross Simons multistone and pearl earrings, edged in diamond pavé, set in 14k white gold.

Now $385, reduced fr
om $595. They are not my earrings, though I'd certainly admire them on someone else; they may delight you or someone you know. (Enter Item #476547 on Ross Simon's site.)

Layering necklaces

By request, a few ideas about layering necklaces.

1. Remember the Golden Ratio

To simplify,
a one third to two-thirds ratio looks pleasing. The bigger, heavier chain is A in the diagram at left, the finer one is B. or, layer all necklaces at slightly differing lengths.

This Anthropologie Treasures Unearthed necklace shows how the rati
o applies between the smallest and longest strand. If there's too much space between the first and third necklace, the layers look a bit "lost" and droopy.

2. Match metal colour: gold (or gold-tone) with gold, etc.

Have fun mixing faux and real, but don't mix silver with gold unless it's already part of one necklace. This is one of those odd aesthetic rules, in the same vein as 'black shoes look good with navy pants, but navy shoes don't work with black pants'. It just looks like you don't have what you need.

3. Many necklaces? Simple clothes

Multiple nec
klaces are a busy look, so if you like to wear prints or bold colour blocks, one necklace is enough unless you want a gypsy or eccentric look.

In the mix

What mood would you like? Wooden beads mixed with a gold chain create a casual, boho vibe; the same gold chain layered with pearls is classic.

Mixing strands of beads, say a strand of turquoise with a strand of deep amethyst, or a tiger-eye strand and a citrine strand, is a refined, elegant look.

Mix pieces of substance with airier ones; too many thick necklaces will kill the charm. Play with mixing beads with other beads, chains of varying weight, or an assortment of chains and pendants.

Start with a two-layer composition. Aim for some sort of harmony, so you don't look like a kid throwing on the contents of your mother's jewelry box. I like pieces with some heft, though you do have to watch out for too much weight on your neck. Assembling many bitsy chains and pendants looks jeune fille no matter how many you layer on.

dants with presence

These Year of the Necklace pieces from Anthropologie are about $50 each. They showcase animals from the Chinese zodiac; I'd like the jade, sandstone and glass Monkey.

You might mix the pendant with pearls. The double keshis shown above, from Kojima Pearl, $65, would work well.

Colour connects layers

A colour reference among the layers ties disparate pieces together; shown left, coral beads with a bead and chain pendant.

Finding the missing link

If you're buying for layering, you probably already have some necklaces, so search for the focal piece that ties everything together.

I'd pick this Be
n Amun lentil necklace, at 48", it provides a very long, swingy bottom layer, or you can double it for two mid-length layers. The lentil drops are varying sizes, for grace and movement. Gold-plate; $195 from Max and Chloe.

In silver, I would love the Hermes Chain D'Ancre, which at $1,225 is worth every penny; will not date and if I am wrong, you could sell it to me (installment plan, please). I do not long for much, but there's this.

I'd wear it with substantial beads like this Jay King 19" carnelian bead necklace, a mere $70 from HSN, available to the USA.

The best buy is a piece that has enough character to be worn on its own.

That's why I like this Saundra Messinger 29" silver circle necklace with .25" and .5" discs, $470 from Fragments. Photo is a little washed out, and doesn't do it justice, but it's really pretty, fine without being dainty.

I might layer it with Avindy's circle-linked necklace, echoing the spheres, but adding colour with rhodolite and topaz, $390, from Fragments.

To get an entirely different look with the same silver chain: layer with a 20" turquoise and silver-ball necklace, $116 from Ross Simons.

I like layering that's fairly classic and grown-up; the Olsen twin messy nests are not on display here, you can find them in any mall.

Portia's cool costume mixes

Portia Jewelry show a Tropic Bead necklace with three layers of beads; the exuberant mix seems like a steal for $39, with the longest layer at 19".

Portia also sell a brown layered bead necklace, (longest layer 18"), for the same price. Fun mix if you can wear your pieces this short.

Length and body type

Think about where you want the eye to rest. The smaller-busted you are, the lower you can go, if you have a high bust line; see Madonna in the Givenchy necklace that has been knocked off by everybody.

If you have more bust, wear one 16-inch and one 18-inch necklace, or go a bit longer, but stop short of the pieces dangling in the air like climber's ropes over the Matterhorn.

Cynthia Nixon's necklace shows how the opera-length (at longest) to choker (highest) layers raise the eye.

And on Isabella Rossellini, short layers, which look chicest to me, and flatter your neck, especially with short or upswept hair.

p the earrings simple; I do like big rings anytime, though.

Hoarding: Getting and not spending

A recent post by Frugal Scholar about dipping into her emergency fund got me thinking about hoarding.

One of my GFs said that her mother hoards bras. "She must have nearly two dozen new bras in her drawer, why does she do that?", she asked.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder aside, we hoard mostly because of fear, and sometimes because of love. We are either terrified of running ou
t, or so enamoured of the object that we think owning more will exponentially increase our pleasure.

Types of hoarding

1. The Stockpile

You can't bear to run out: a favourite discontinued lipstick you can only get on eBay, the perfect gel shoe insert, a brand of long-lasting candle.

Or the item is rare: you can only get it when you travel, or when lucky enough to find it, so you stock up. Example: Ayurvedic toothpaste sold in India for one-quarter the price charged here.

We also stockpile when we find a bargain, which frugal-livers remind us is wise only if we are certain to use the item.

2. The Stash

You don't need the item much, but you can't throw it out, so your hoard builds. The stuff is often free: perfume samples, toothbrushes from the dentist, advertising fridge magnets.

When not free, the stash is usually low-value: odd sheets of giftwrap, twist-ties, computer paper, Ziploc bags. My mother stowed enough note pads to last seven lifetimes.

3. The Obsession

This is where it gets interesting: hoarding driven by love, or at least lust.
The hoard is sometimes called a collection. You must have more of it and there is never 'too much'.

For a decade, I was in love with cookie cutters and collected one of every shape I could find: bat, tulip, '50s abstract shapes, lips; you name it, I have it. Eventually, I quit. Sometimes you get over an obsession and purge, an ending as painful and liberating as a necessary breakup.

What do you hoard?

Hoarding money

We can become very attached to our assets; this attachment may be unconscious. We might not realize how welded we are until we must dip into our savings.

Money can assume the quality of hoarding when we grant it an inviolate sanctity, refusing to spend, which depletes the hoard, or invest, which subjects it to risk.

When the rainy day comes, how do you feel about spending from savings?

feel anxiety or guilt when they spend even a few thousand out of a $50,000 fund. Like the pulling of one brick out of a wall, they imagine everything will tumble, their security in jeopardy. Few of us can dip into our slush fund without a twinge, but a hoarding mentality infuses the spending with deep angst.

I see savings as a resource, like the stock of pasta sauce in the freezer. I made it, I use it, and I'll make some more, some years more than others. While it provides some peace of mind, savings offer limited protection from life's most challenging difficulties. "If your problems can be solved by money", my Dad used to say, "they aren't problems."

The well-known words from a Bible verse (1 Timothy 6:10) is often misquoted as "Money is the root of all evil"; it is in fact, "
For the love of money is the root of all evil."

Love of money engenders worry, greed, and a meanness of spirit. When someone loves money, behaviours include accumulation through continual denial, the use of
money to manipulate and, saddest of all, the futile attempt to buy respect or affection. Loving money more than people is a sure path to estrangement from one's self and others.

ing at 50+

The tendency to hoard can become more pronounced with age for two reasons. First, sticker shock hits. How often I exclaim to Le Duc, "Can you believe the price of that?" and he replies, "You sound just like your mother."

Sixteen dollars for an ordinary pair of tights! So when I see five for $7.50 each, better stock up.

Second, shopping exhausts me. Occasionally it's a good tired: "What fun; I'm beat, let's have a glass of wine", but often it's an "I can't believe I wasted a day doing this" stupor.

So when I find the right tee on sale, why not buy four, two for this summer and two for next? Then I don't have to go back.
I'll just put them in the drawer with... oh look, the three I bought last summer.

My godfather, an astute and successful merchant, used to smile at this logic and say, "Let the store carry the cost of the inventory, and keep your money till you need to spend it."

Of-the-minute manicures

Old school cool

Karen at Of A Certain Age published a shot of her neighbour Betty, and I noticed her long squared nails, painted rich

This is a look popular since at least the mid-70s, and though Betty is beautifully groomed, there are more current looks. I'm not suggesting she change her sassy retr
o manicure, only that styles do move along as the decades pass.

dated classics

If you wear gel nails, or prefer a longer natural nail, here's the more current shape, the just-past fingertip length squared oval, in red, far left, and on natural nails with clear polish, near left.

The pale, subtle manicure on a beautifully shaped oval nail shown with a glass of champagne belongs to Helen Mirren, who wore this look to the Academy Awards.

Short nails
, dark polish

A favourite of mine, because I can do things with my hands, yet still have the punch of polish.

I think darker polish looks most modern on short nails, and manicurists say it adheres better.

The "Red Buttons" sported by Diane Keaton show that the look works for mature women, too.


Here to stay (although not in France), French manicures are beloved by so many women that I anticipate some protests when I call them rather dated.
The advantage is that the manicure goes with anything.

If French is a fact of life, wear it like Eva Longoria's, shown at far left, in soft pink and cream polishes that subtly merge.

Aggressive talons with harsh white tips that look like the old typewriter correction fluid White-Out, near left, are hard and passé.

All natural

The soft, classic manicure that features no polish, simply shaping, cuticle care and buffing is ideal for those who work with their hands, anyone who wants to avoid using solvents and other chemicals, and those who prefer a simple yet groomed look.

For directions, see
The Natural Manicure on the Healthy & Green Living site. I've found keeping up the natural manicure actually takes more time than a salon-polish job.

Matte's where it'
s at

Clear matte polishes like Essie's Matte About You make nails look softly buffed but last longer than a buff, which is actually a very light wax. You can also wear it as a topcoat on sheer or deep shades to create the velvety matte effect.

Sally Hansen Instant Shine Natural Nail Finish is a similar product and comes in matte and light shine.
Best of all, it wears off gradually so you don't have to use remover.

Matte colour: cutting edgy

I'm showing matte polish in navy to show nail shape and the deep, light-absorbing effect. The nails look like polished stones. (And once again, there's that current, not-too-long shape.) A white-haired woman with navy nails would certainly turn heads.

OPI, betting on a trend, is releasing six of its most popular shades in matte formulations this summer. You can experiment with matte by using the Essie Matte About You as a topcoat.

New half moon

At the other end of the upkeep continuum, we have the the half-moon manicure.

The 1920s nail trend invented by a manicurist at MGM Studios resurfaced in striking color variations (purple and cream, navy and white) at Christian Dior and Thakoon.

“It is ‘le must’ in terms of elegance,” said Elsa Deslande, the manicurist for the Dior fall couture show. But she advises you not to try it at home. “It is a very complex aesthetic technique that is practically impossible to create on one’s own,” she said, noting, too, that it requires a specific length, width and shape of the nail, which only a few people have (Dita Von Teese, among them).

So what’s one to do? Well, use fake ones. “We applied them on every model at the show,” Ms. Deslande said.
(Source: New York Times online editon; Fashion & Style secion, Pulse by Karen Nelson, Sunday, July 26, 2009)

Here's the classic Von Teese red half-moon manicure. Not an everyday look for most of us, fun for a party or when you're in a burlesquey mood.

How much is too much?

I avoid effects like sparkles, tiger stripes and seasonal artwork, despite my local salon's manicurists, who seem to live to apply flowers or shooting stars.

Good taste does not necessarily come with the nail technician's certificate, so insist on what
you want.

On vacation, back July 28

I'll be away the week of July 19, for a peaceful retreat in northern New York.

Next post: Tuesday, July 28.

Looking forward to reading your blogs and comments next week, and thank you once again for reading.

Diamonds by daylight

s. asked, in a comment: "Is it vulgar to wear big diamonds on a day to day basis? I always cringe when I see massive "ice" at 10AM in the local Starbucks - I was raised that honkin' jewels are to be worn only for evening occasions - but maybe this is just an antiquated notion on my part. Or maybe I'm cringing because many of these women seem vulgar in countless ways, and the bling is in fact the least offensive of their crimes."

I've seen that too.The diamond rings worn for day seem to have grown bigger; what's the cause of carat creep?

When I was a tween, a my sister's friends who received a half-carat engagement ring got "Ooooh" reactions.

By the time I graduated from university, the 1ct ring ruled. There will still plenty under that, but a full carat was the hand-grabber ring.

Decades passed, y
oung women watched Sex and the City, read about JLo's double-digit carats, and the ERs got even bigger.

One woman told me her brothers had a little chat with her fiancé and told him, "Go big or go home." She showed up at work waving a nearly 3ct boulder, and earned the nickname Nugget Girl.

The women with under 1ct ERs got
upgrade fever. One told me, "I don't want to have to replace the diamond again." In anticipation of "diamond shrink"- when the ring that once thrilled now looks bitty- jewelers offered a deal: buy the modest ring now, and trade-in for purchase value when you upgrade to a bigger stone.

Vulgar is in the eye of the beholder. One definition of vulgar is "Lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste; ostentatious or excessive in expenditure or display." A five-carat skating rink is going to get you noticed as you hoist your caramel frappachino. I live in a big city,so wonder about the wisdom of wearing the ring on the street or in the subway.

Not everyone is captivated by size. Jennifer, deeply a ladyperson, deterred her fiancé from buying a rock, and chose a vintage three-stone ring, a modest but very fine emerald flanked by two diamonds. Her guy could have taken his pick of Tiffany's finest, but Jennifer knew elegance is not measured by carat weight.

Some people can pull off bigger diamonds in daylight. My GF Iris, married to a true Mr. Big, is one. Iris wears only a plain gold wedding band on her hands, no ne
cklace or bracelet... but if you look closely under her chin-length bob you will see a pair of D flawless 2ct studs, worn by day with her sober Armani suit.

How big
to wear by day? (Not a dilemma I'll ever face.) It's a matter of taste, personal style and what message you want to send to the world. Genevieve Dariaux, in her charming book, "A Guide to Elegance" (written in the early '60s) advises women not to wear furs and big jewels by day, lest they look like a mistress, and telegraph to the world their louche status.

But Rihanna can buy her own bling, merci, and rocks this daytime travel ensemble of denim, diamonds and fur.

Though we don't have to think, as RiRi may, "What size diamonds shall I wear today?", there is still plenty of pressure to bling out. The beleaguered diamond industry bellows that size of stone equates to depth of love, and Beyoncé sings, "If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it"- and
hers is the size of a small country.

So, s., this is not an exactly an answer, but a reflection on why some women want, and therefore wear, diamonds bigger than a Venti lid.