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Unsplash image by Rokslana Zasiadko

Read this next time you’re longing to feel beautiful

Are you beautiful? Do you find that a provocative question? Perhaps it hits a nerve that has you listing the ways that you’re not, yet, beautiful. Or perhaps you shy back due to modesty…

We don’t go about openly declaring ourselves beautiful in this culture. And yet we’re obsessed by it!

It’s difficult not to be obsessed considering that we’ve been indoctrinated from a young age, even if simply from watching movies and music videos.

As a maker of jewellery, and a first-house-Venus-in-Taurus, beauty has always held a certain prominence for me. And yet, like many, at the same time I crave beauty, I’ve also felt there was something self-indulgent, frivolous and ultimately irrelevant about it.

But then I started to dig into why beauty is high on my list of values. So I decided to do this series of explorations on beauty and what it really means…

What if beauty is not what you think it is?

Do you recognise that deep longing for beauty that you can feel in your heart and your belly? Do you crave beauty and yet sometimes have this jealousy, this feeling that sneaks up on you, that it’s something ‘out there’ that other women have but not you?

Are you the kind of woman who gets caught in comparisons? Not enough of this, too much of that? I know I am. It’s hard not to in this society where everywhere we turn we see a parade of Hollywood beauties, airbrushed to perfection – or the ‘ugly’ counterpart much used by checkout magazines splashing pics of ‘stars without their make-up’ across their covers.

Remarkably, I notice that whenever I read one of those mags (and only because I’ve been waiting too long at the doctor’s surgery and I’m desperately bored), I feel drained of my energy. Robbed of it, in fact.

And this drained feeling comes from the simple truth that these magazines are stealing my beauty by making it impossible. Since I can only ever be myself, not some copy of a celebrity or supermodel.

What are you allowing to steal your beauty?

In modern times it’s easy to believe that beauty is about a narrow range of visual criteria, because way too much energy is spent trying to convince us of this fact in order to sell us a product or service!

And thus we’ve been trained to forget what beauty really is. We mistake beauty for appearance, or rather we think beauty is in how we appear, when it’s actually an energy.

This is why we can meet people who have perfect faces and bodies, and yet something feels like it’s missing. This seemingly perfect beauty is an artifice.
It’s beauty that does not believe itself because the woman (or man) is not connected to that intangible vitality that energises her from within.

This isn’t just an experience we have with people either. Although the “beauty” industry works very hard to suppress our natural and uncanny ability to detect when something is ‘all surface and no substance’.

Beauty is the vitalising energy of life pulsating through us.

And it’s an energy that can be ‘stolen’… or more precisely it’s an energy that can be diverted or suppressed.

For example, whenever you look in a mirror and critique yourself for not meeting beauty standards, you’re giving away a little of your life energy to some social dictate about what beauty is supposed to look like.

It’s the same when you’re ogling makeup displays in department stores, or poring over the images of Vogue, and you feel this ache for the possibilities promised.

In each of these actions, beyond, around, behind envy is that little delicious scent of potentiality. When we pause a moment to recognise that sensation we’re seeking, when we really feel into the potency of beauty, we get to claim it for ourselves.

Because it doesn’t live in magazines or products, it lives within  our own vitality.

So even if you’re struggling to see it in yourself – or most importantly when you’re struggling to see it in the mirror – seek it not in magazines and advertisements.
Look for it in life. In gardens and galleries, in pets and sunsets.

Just because it seems to be ‘outside’ you doesn’t mean it’s not yours to experience. Beauty is not something we can own. And it’s ironic that the billion dollar industry so effectively keeps us chasing the possibility of it, by promising we can own it via a particular product. Even as we know this beauty is never permanent!

We can’t own it and it’s not permanent, but not because someone else has what we don’t, or time and age take it away from us – but because we can’t own an energy.

You can’t own vitality. You have to let it flow through you if you want the experience of it.

The ancient Greeks thought of the beauty we see as a manifestation of some ideal ‘off-world’ pure essence. But beauty is not abstraction, it’s of-this-world, available through the deeply embodied experience of life pulsating through us – in response to the vitality of a flower, or the energetic presence of the artist in an artwork.

Or the clear expression of our own real-ness in a world accustomed to artifice.

 

Unsplash image by Rokslana Zasladko

 

Beauty is an experience of energy, not a specific thing.

If you want to feel beautiful than dip into your own vital life force and feel it express through you. In laughter, or sadness, or calm. In all its forms.

Every time you see something that is naturally beautiful – flower or sunset, kitten or baby – it’s because there is a pure energy expressing through these.
Accept that energy as a gift, letting it enter your senses, feeling it infuse your body with whatever ‘feel-good’ chemicals that happiness and awe and joy evoke (and there are a bunch of neurotransmitters connected to these experiences).

And then just let that sensation fuel your own beauty, your own deep and vital essence.

Receive the beauty the world is offering everyday. This most simple of actions fuels your own beauty.

Some days you may have to ‘work’ on seeking it out, especially in a chaotic, cacophonous modern city. But whether it means flowers that make your heart sing, or a delicious fabric that enlivens your senses, or the taste of something amazing, let it all in.

Get excited about being alive. Because this increases your reserves of beauty.

And we need to continually replenish these in a world that seems constantly at work attempting to steal the beauty that we naturally have.

About symbols. Or, why I’m so over jewels with words stamped on them.

I’m prepared to admit that I’m a jewel snob. And I’m also going to be a cranky pants.

I’ve had enough of bracelets stamped with your ‘bespoke’ word, like ‘love’ and ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’. And maybe your children’s names (like, really? are you going to forget them?).

I love words, but I also know the limits of words. Not only for the constraints on what they can express to other people, but also on what kind of meaning they can create for ourselves.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic of pet peeves, I’ve also had enough with $20 pendants of chunks of crystal wrapped in some cheap industrial metal and being sold as a ‘symbol of spiritual abundance’…. So ‘fast food’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for symbolism.

But there’s something out of whack here.
Words only represent ideas in very limited ways. While symbols, on the other hand, are so much more than what most people think… So, warning, soap box ahead!

Words are stand-ins for ideas. They hold the position of the main actors, in their absence from our minds. This is what makes them so extraordinarily useful. And seductive.
You don’t need the real thing to be always present if a word can recall it at will.

It’s the power of grammaring!**

That’s why the Word of God worked so well for Christians, evoking the presence of the divine authority without him actually having to be there, in church and so forth.

It’s also why words play such a huge part in magic rituals – abracadabra and all that.

I don’t, by any means, underestimate the power of words.

However the symbol offers us so much more. Layer upon layer, we can peel away meanings to reveal new vistas, like the difference between binoculars & the Hubble telescope. Which is why I am so irritated by the ‘fast food’ version of the symbol. Like the news story in a tabloid, it’s designed for easy sales, easy digestion, and it offers no real insight.

The thing about symbols is that they’re not immediately understood.
You can still be chewing over their resonance and meaning long after the first encounter. Despite what dream dictionaries and Dan Brown would have us believe, they aren’t about attaching clear & precise meanings.

This makes them very different to words. So when you use them like words, to ‘represent’ something, you’ve missed 90% of the story.

Representing is what ‘signs’ do – they spell stuff out, sometimes with pictures.

When I was a (very bossy) lecturer it would so get up my nose when one of my jewellery students started talking about her project: ‘Well, this symbol represents my love for…’.

Go beyond representation I always say, keep following the idea down rabbit holes.

Find out something entirely new, or unexpected, or paradoxical.

Symbols open portals to meaning, they don’t close them down.

Words take care of clarity. Symbols reverberate & resonate & expand continuously into new, deeper, wider understandings.

Symbols follow a similar process to manifesting. There’s been enough out there about manifesting, so that you know by now that manifesting is not about writing the list and handing it over to the Universe to do your bidding. It’s about the feeling, and about being present in that feeling.

Symbols open vistas along the road of continual becomings.
They accompany us into wordless places where meaning is in our being.
It happens regardless of whether we’re even thinking about it.

A symbol is a material (i.e. visual, aural, tactile, sensorial, perceptual) key that unlocks a door into a greater reality. It’s a tele-portation device through which the numinous manifests. It takes the vast power of the cosmos (untrammelled by thinking) and it brings it down to earth, and holds it against our breast, or wraps it round our finger, or sits it on the table in front of us.

It brings the inexplicable into experience.

A piece of jewellery doesn’t have to be symbolic, although there is something about jewellery that means it is perfectly primed to be so.

Why is this? Perhaps because we wear it, maybe everyday, and like any well-loved object that we live with, it becomes part of our definition of self. It’s a familiar presence with us, giving reassurance or succour to our in-conscious self. (The conscious rational self is probably taking no notice, or else it dismisses the effect.)

For a symbol to ‘work’ for you, you have to become present with it. You live with it. You wear it. It sparks off whole flights of thoughts, ideas, dreams taking you to new lands.

And the most fascinating part – we probably never had intended this when we first saw it, purchased it and started wearing it.

This is one of the things that makes a piece of symbolic jewellery so magical.

 

[**Piece of trivia – because I just love this stuff, and maybe you’ll find it as scintillating as I do: the witch’s Grimoire (aka the Spell Book) has a connection to the word ‘grammar’ via the Scottish word ‘gramarye’ which means ‘occult learning’. And the word ‘glamour’ is also derived from ‘grammar’. Who would have thought something so dull could have such a secret past???]

5 steps to your perfect custom-design jewel

So you’ve been looking for a very special ring but nothing you’ve seen is really grabbing you and screaming ‘I’m the one!’

Or perhaps you have just decided that you deserve that fabulous piece of jewellery you’ve been promising yourself for a while.

And yet, you’re feeling less than excited about all the prospects that have presented themselves as you’ve browsed shops and websites and galleries and anywhere else looking for that piece that will precisely express all the deliciousness and value that you really want to express about yourself.

It could be that you have inherited a pile of rings and things from your grandmother, and its just not quite your style. Or you snapped up gold when your saw it in antique and pawn shops because you love the idea of wearing it, but the designs are less than exciting.

Any of these symptoms are a sign that you need a bespoke jeweller who is going to transform your ideas, your intuition, even just the scent of what you’re wanting, into a piece of jewelry that is perfect just for you, totally unique and it just ‘feels’ right.

But imaybe you’re wondering just how you go about finding someone who can translate your idea, your inkling, maybe even your Frank-Gehry-style-sketches-on-a-serviette into a divine jewel that you feel is “you”.

So how to find the right jeweller? And how to communicate this vision in your head into something tangible so that they can create it for you?

You see, while I make jewellery, I’m not saying that I’m the one for you. That’s up to your intuition.

But I’ve got some suggestions about how you can be sure you get what you want, when you find the ‘one’.

1. Get clear for yourself on the outcome you really want.

I don’t mean that you need a design sketch or a photo of what it should look like. Maybe it’s about the way you feel when you wear it. Or the impact you want to have when others see it. Maybe it’s a metaphor: “like a galaxy of stars”, or “a renaissance princess ring”.

If you are thinking: “I don’t know what I want but I will know it when I see it” you will greatly increase your chances of getting the result you’re after if you can clarify some things for yourself first.

Some questions to help you brainstorm:
How do you want to feel when you wear this piece of jewellery?
“Special”, “powerful”, “loved” are useful descriptions, but try to get inside these sensations as well: what exactly will make you feel that way? Your bespoke jeweller may not ask you these questions but if you work through these yourself you can clarify some things before you even start to look for a jeweller.

If you say ‘I want to feel sexy and sensual when I wear it’, how does that translate for you? For one person ‘sexy’ is burlesque glamour, while for another it can be a particular texture or form. Perhaps red is your favourite colour and when you wear it you feel powerful. Or maybe you will feel the love between you and your sweetheart if you have have matching bands, or have the ring engraved with symbols that are deeply meaningful to you.

What materials appeal to you?
Do you want diamonds for your engagement ring, or something different? Are you interested in the properties of different kinds of gemstones? Do you want precious materials? Or perhaps you love the idea of something made from wood, or from steel.

What about colours, textures, shapes? Start to collect imagery. These might be imagery of existing jewels – you like a bit of this one, or a bit of that one. Or perhaps something more abstract – a photograph, a piece of fabric, a pattern.

Are there particular symbols or visions which you’d like to incorporate?
One of my clients requested a ring where the stones were set in the pattern of a particular constellation of stars that held real significance for her and her husband-to-be.

Collect visual information, of jewellery, or anything else that relates to what you want. This way, when you meet with the jeweller you’ll immediately give them a sense of where you’re wanting to go.

2. Find a jeweller that fits your vision.

Got some clarity? Its time to find a jeweller. Even if you don’t feel your vision is really clear, recognise that you’ve set your intention in motion by teasing some definites out from daydreams. This will greatly help any jeweller who is going to translate these ideas into a piece of jewelry.

Do your research.
Try word of mouth – like someone’s jewellery? Ask where they got it.

Spend a bit of time googling jewellery websites until you find the jewellery that sings to you.

Visit jewellery galleries and single out the pieces that appeal. The gallery can tell you if the jeweller will custom-make pieces to order, and may even organise this process.

Or just collect names everywhere you go, then head for the internet and research what the person does, what people are saying about them, etc.

Be endlessly curious until you find someone whose aesthetic and skills feel like a good fit.

A word of caution: DO make sure the person has experience with custom-design work.

Look for a jeweller who has a portfolio that already appeals to you – or a track record (again here’s where personal testimonials help).

3. Don’t ask your bespoke jeweller to copy something.

I can tell you from experience that “Tiffany’s without the price tag” is an awful brief! Do you really want a cheap imitation?

However, you can offer references to a bespoke jeweller: “something like this” or “a bit of this ring, and a bit of that ring” to give them some starting points.

Working from reference points helps, but when you’ve done you’re homework, and allow the jeweler space for their own imagination you’re on the path to something unique.

4. Get clear on the process your bespoke jeweller uses to translate your ideas into reality.

Expect more than one consultation where he or she will ask lots of questions, show you examples of their skills, discuss their techniques and the design ideas. If you come to them with some clarity (see point no 1) that increases the chance of you getting a jewel that’s perfect for you.

Expect to see design drawings, and perhaps a model of the work in progress. ,
Or a jeweller may use other techniques to communicate to you a clear idea of how the finished piece will look.

If you’re not sure ask for more clarification.
Don’t go forward with the piece until you feel confident that you’ll be very happy with the end result.

Most importantly, if you’re feeling any doubts about the design, how willing is the jeweller to keep working through the issues with you?
You need to feel confident about the outcome. If not, perhaps the 2 of you aren’t a good fit, and its best to know that before you progress further.

5. Get clear on the contractual details – even if there is no formal written contract.

Each jeweller has a different approach, and depending on how complex the piece is you may get an initial quote or ‘ballpark’. This will be close to the final price with a few provisos: eg: market fluctuations with metal prices, a given number of design consultations before arriving at the final design, etc.

Or save yourself the worry and tell them your budget upfront.

If in doubt, like the design, first rule is to ask for clarification.
After the design elements are finalised and before the production starts you should be told the final price.

Check the jeweller’s guarantee and after care.
Is your satisfaction guaranteed? If you’re not happy with the outcome, what’s your recourse?
Will the jeweller work with you until you are satisfied?
Be aware that once you’ve given your consent on viewing final drawings, you may be committed to the pay the balance.

Once you have the jewel – do you know how to look after it properly?
Have you been given care instructions for the lifetime of the piece? Can you bring it back to the jeweller to have it checked and cleaned?

A custom-design jewel can be a significant investment, but the experience should be exciting not scary.

If you follow these tips you can be pretty confident you’ll get what you really want.

And if you have any tips to share from custom-design experiences I’d love to know – leave me a comment.

Interested in my custom-design process? Find out more on the custom design page.

Jewels tell stories

When I was about 10, I wrote my first novel, an epic adventure about a warrior princess. Painstakingly hand written in book format, I drew the cover design (on her chariot leading the troops – I think I’d just heard about Boadicea), stapled it together and presented it to my parents for their reading pleasure.

Needless to say I didn’t get the rave reviews that help one to top the New York Times bestseller list. But, for a while there I was quite convinced that I was going to be a novelist (this was after I was going to be an actress, and before I was going to be an architect).

And then I ended up being a jeweller, and I could never work out why cos it was never on the list.
Except I always enjoy telling the tale that I saw ‘gold & silversmithing’ in the art college prospectus and had visions of lost ancient worlds (at some point archaeologist was on the list too).

AmberClaw

Now I realise that jewellery is storytelling.
Making jewellery involves stories, not just the ideas, but the materials – gems, metals, feathers, etc, all have tales to tell. Then there’s their life once they leave the maker’s bench, and begin to inhabit bodies and jewellery boxes and shoeboxes under the bed. They get lost, or stolen, they end up in the middle of someone else’s story.

I was fascinated to learn that gold never breaks down, and the vast majority of gold in circulation, even in new pieces of jewellery, has been out of the ground for many centuries.

Molecules of time, crossing centuries and passing through many lives.
A ring made from antelope horn found in a market in Marrakech, my grandmother’s engagement ring, a pair of sparkly crystal earrings my mother wore dancing at Cloudland (it’s a Brisbane thang…).

One of the things that I love about having made jewellery for more than 20 years is now so many pieces have stories to tell about all that time they’ve spent with their peeps.
Some are still being worn daily, others wait quietly for their moment in the spotlight again.

Not so long ago I got an email from someone who’d felt the urge to bring one of her SKjewels (circa 1991) out of the closet again.
“I gave my piece an outing last week” she said “and the old magic was definitely there with many compliments.”
How fantastic that the necklace had a chance to work its glamour again, that jewel and wearer could work it together!

A while back I thought about compiling all the stories that people have told me about their pieces of jewellery. But I never did, and now I can’t remember most of the tales.

Do you have a piece of SKJ ancient history? Or perhaps it’s more recent history? Or do you have a fantastic story about a piece of jewellery you inherited, you found somewhere, or that you lost and is out there still travelling? If you do have a tale to tell please tell me by leaving a comment below…