Brazilian Jewelry History(Joias de Crioulas): The Balangandán and the Charms of Bahia

Image from O que e que a Bahia tem. Museu Carlos Costa Pinto. 2006.

One of the things I loved about teaching anthropology at Scad, was exploring adornment and culture. The students loved learning more about how material culture gives us clues about our belief systems and diverse histories.  In this case, anthropology opened up a discourse concerning diversity, status, gender, and jewelry.  My training was in indigenous cultures and visual anthropology as well.

Jewelry is such an important aspect of culture.  Many cultures use jewelry to indicate status, gender cues, clan affiliation, and for monetary means as well.  Women in patrilineal cultures have traditionally used jewelry to survive, storing and hiding pieces to be used easily and converted to money during times of war or strive. Cultures value different stones, woods, and materials. One of my favorite examples of this, that I came into contact with while living in Brazil, was the Blanagandan.  This piece of jewelry represents the encounter between Portuguese culture and Africans in Brazil. This sad, but rich history, began when slaves were brought to Brazil after many of the enslaved indigenous populations started to die of disease.  With them, they brought the beliefs of the many tribes and cultures which they originated from, such as the Yoruba.

Old Yoruba Divination Necklaces. My collection.

The original Balangandans were made of the precious metal silver, at the end of the 17th century with their popularity gaining in the 18th-19th century.  These pieces of jewelry had a direct relationship to status and monetary wealth or value.  There are both Christian and African symbols in the construction of the jewelry. One can recognize properties of divination and symbols straight from Africa, merged here in the balangandan (it has been suggested that this word referred to the sound made when worn). However, it may be more likely related to African linguistic origins.

Image from O que e que a Bahia tem. Museu Carlos Costa Pinto. 2006. Notice how the Balangandan is worn at the waist.

Specifically, Balangandans were worn by freed slaves and some slaves whom the ‘owners’ favored, but because these pieces had more references to Africa and non Catholic elements they were used or worn in more specific situations, than they “creole or freed slave gold jewelry”. However, it is really important to emphasize that these were objects of jewelry that were indeed negotiated by the African women themselves. They control their image and status using these objects, which also included fine earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings of gold. This is something that did not happen visually obvious for North American freed slaves. Brazilian Creolo women and freed slaves obtained a status that showed in the women of Bahia and their gold jewelry. It was stacked sky high both inside and outside the house, when the occasion was correct. This was especially the case of the freed creole women, whose wealth grew as they were sought out by Catholic women for spiritual advice and secret solutions of non Catholic origin. They were paid for such services and their status often grew.  Many were practicing a form of Candomblé, yet keeping Catholicism in some aspects.  Another important detail to realize is that these Balangandans were not necklaces, but belts where charms were personalized and added for the purposes of the wearer.

Probably one of the best sources in the world is the Museum of Carlos Costa Pinto in Salvador. Their text which was published for a collection exhibit which contained “creole” and slave jewelry is in Portuguese, and has many historically rich details. The text discusses how the overall exaggerated use of layers of jewelry used by women in Bahia, led to Carmen Miranda’s persona and accessories styling. They discuss the possibility of slave women also earning enough jewelry to in some instances buy freedom. The jewelry’s relationship to the women is complex as suggested by this quote:

“A opulencia e um ultima instancia, uma exteriorização de luxo e riqueza, mesmo podendo dar uma impressao falso de que a exibe. Joias de rainha para mulheres do povo, livres ou escravas. Joias atraentes, capazes de sinalizar poder e distinção” ( O que e que a Bahia tem, 56. Ourivesaria do Museu Carlos Costa Pinto) Simone Trindade.  Translation: This opulence, is an instance where the appearance of luxury and riches is possible to at the same time, give one a false impression of what they are exhibiting.  Jewelry fit for a queen, but instead used by poorer women free or enslaved.

Image from O que e que a Bahia tem. Museu Carlos Costa Pinto. 2006.The jewelry of these women also included gold pieces, like huge cuffs and necklaces, also bearing a mix of Catholic and African references. This was particularly the case in 1881, when slaves were freed and such precious metals came to symbolize power in freedom.  In some ways, it was important to have some relationship to the dominant religion, while at the same time hiding certain beliefs in the symbolism. The Balangandan is made up of the chain, thicker usually used as a belt, the “nave” or charm holder, and the charms. It was very specific to the user, charms chosen according to what they needed or valued. It seems that there was a use for specific charms alone versus the entire Balangandan, which was also negotiated when needed. The Balangandan had a mystic and religious function and was not publicly demonstrated as much as the gold bracelets and such. Older women of status would bring them out specifically for festivals or gatherings as well. They seem to be tied to wealth, whereas the Balangandan is more tied to use and status. Although there are some more commonly used symbols intact, many referencing male and female aspects as well:

Image from O que e que a Bahia tem. Museu Carlos Costa Pinto. 2006. Antique Balanganda. 30 charms on silver.

pomegranate-wealth prosperity

fish-reference to Jesus and ample food

The Key-control, access to that which is locked.

Dipper- fertility

Tooth- to take on the properties of the animal and to protect

Figa to ward off evil, popular in Brazil ( North African and Mediterranean origin)

Pages 64-65 of the Museum booklet found at Carlos Costa Pinto describes the symbols in more detail.

Repro pieces made for tourists after the 19th century are often brass and examples from the 50s look like necklaces in silver metals, smaller scale-usually uniform in materials, thin tin metals, and caste construction in some cases. In terms of the older rarer examples there are ways to tell, such as the maker’s marks, style of construction, and material.  This rich iconography continues to be a big part of the culture of the area and is a fascinating example of gender, women’s roles and the power of jewelry as a symbol.

Image from O que e que a Bahia tem. Museu Carlos Costa Pinto. 2006. Balangandan. Antique example. Showing authentic construction and diverse materials used.

Happy Chinese New Year! Accessories to Celebrate the Year of the Dog

This Friday, February 16th is Chinese New Year! And the festive holiday got us thinking about one of the oldest civilizations in the world. They started producing jewelry 5000 years ago! That means traditional Chinese jewelry comes with some seriously deeply rooted cultural influences and religious beliefs—the kind worth celebrating.

1900-1930 Chinese Sterling Silver Enamel Jade Bracelet

Old Deco Chinese Diaspora 900 Silver Cuff Bracelet

We can see it in the selection of metal, gemstones, and iconography used to produce their pieces. A lot of jewelry is made out of silver—mainly from Mexico and Peru— because the country bought so much of it from Europe and Japan in the 16th and 17th century. While Jade, which we can’t go without mentioning if we’re talking about Chinese jewelry, was the most popular gemstone. It represented highly regarded qualities in the culture like durability, grace, beauty, morality, and connection to the divine—jade talismans were for this reason.

 

Carnelian Enamel Buddha Ring

 

Antique Chinese Silver Kylin with Turquoise, Coral and Bone Bead Silver Chain Necklace

But maybe even more distinctly Chinese than jade in the jewelry is the appearance of iconography, especially the dragon. The mythical creature is a real symbol of power and good luck in China. It’s probably only rivaled by The Buddha. Also, there are other less recognized icons to bring you just as many good vibes. The cicada insect is a symbol of rebirth and immortality. The Chinese Phoenix is a messenger of happiness, and represents justice and graciousness. And the kylin (or qilin) is a mythical creature that’s considered a good omen and one that indicates the brith or death of a great leader. You can find antique dog pieces in the fine jewelry market, especially in terms of Victorian eras, Georgian, and Art Deco examples. Here are some of our fun Dog themed picks, in the hopes this year of the dog will be a great one:

Earth, Wind, Water, Fire: Minimalism, Jewelry, and Fay Andrada

 

It’s Sunday and we are handing out the report card!  We have chosen our designer and instagram account to follow. Designer Fay Andrada has a grounded authenticity that is admirable in jewelers. She has refined her personal history and skills into a physical representation through her jewelry.  Her experiences as the daughter of an architect ring true, as does her training in graphic design. Each design is made in brass, sterling, or 14K.  They are modern sculpture with an element of earth, water, wind, and fire thrown in the mix.  There is a human aspect to her work, a tiny imperfection, but also a minimal perfect beauty, as well. Although this style has become more sought after recently and reiterated, she has been doing such pieces for years. Her brand was founded in Brooklyn in 2010. She has a studio in Greenpoint, in which one can make an appointment to see her work in person.

We gravitate in the world of instagram to those artists who have the real goods, because jewelry is a personal process.  Sunday #jewelryreportcard is about rewarding those artist and accounts because they are really great, and in many cases deserve way more followers. I hope by doing these Sunday reports we point out some great accounts that inspire the reader, beyond the superficial.  Plus, they of course, we hope, will make your last day of the weekend a bit brighter!  Her work has been seen in Vogue, Refinery 29, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, and more.   Fay has some lust worthy pieces, also the imagery and romance of her instagram feed is not lost on us. If one scrolls down her feed well into a years or so ago or beyond, one can see how marvelously she styles the bracelets stacked to infinity and the consistency of the photography.  There is a poetic beauty to the feed.

Why we love her instagram:

Jewelry we want so badly:

*All images belong to Fay Andrada, via her website and Instagram.

Jewelry Mathematics: Sunday with Yoko Takirai

It may be hard to believe, but I am a modernist-maximalist, no maximalist modernist, no….anyway once again we find ourselves in a Sunday state of mind. Ready to give our A++ to a new designer and instagram account we recently discovered and love. So grab your coffee and get ready!  Today’s jewelry report card goes to Yoko Takirai, which is very fitting since her jewelry takes some mathematical and architectural knowledge.

Her designs combine a sense of modern architectural design with romance.  First of all, her name is Yoko, so we are hooked…second her degrees in the field are quite extensive.  She graduated from West Virginia University in the 90s, then in 1995 she moved to Florence to study at the jewellery school “Le Arti Orafe”.  She then obtained a degree in project jewellery design from the Istituto d’Arte di Firenze. Yoko taught goldsmith’s art at the “Alchimia” school until 2000 and then in 2002 opened Takirai Design.  Her work has gone on to gain accolades, show at museum shows, and beyond.

What we love about her designs are the way they bridge innovation in form, with their wearer.  She creates architecture for the body.  Where can you get her work? Well, here is where instagram comes into play. Yoko’s work can be seen at international design shows, galleries, and beyond. Most of these events are mentioned on instagram and her facebook page, like the Barcelona Jewellery Fair. She has shown her work at the MAD museum in New York.  Her line is carried in boutiques like Oh My Blue in Venice Italy, so to stay on top of all of this we present her instagram page.

Why we love her instagram a visual tribute:

Our Favorite Pieces:

Contacts:

www.yokotakirai.com

Spazio SAM – Vecchio Conventino – laboratorio 33
Via Giano della Bella, 20/1
50124 Firenze
tel. +39 348 9147006

*All images belong and from Takirai Design website or her instagram account, rights reserved.

Sunday Jewelry Report Card, Italian Style with the Work of Mario Salvucci

It’s the end of the weekend again and to help take your mind off of the impending threat of Monday, we are bringing you our report card pick. The blog has chosen the work of jewelry artist and designer Mario Salvucci! Mario’s instagram is an interesting blend of beautiful deep hues of navy blacks combined with images of his everyday Italian life and inspirations. His fashion/jewelry images often look like Italian paintings and never cease to inspire.  In this rhythm, one also finds the occasional quirky post, which makes his instagram account one to enjoy and follow. He has experience in lighting and decor design as well, which also makes his perspective unique.   His jewelry is whimsical and modern, yet a bit industrial and raw.

If you love insect jewelry, look no further as his incredible creatures collection explores a personal favorite of mine, spider jewelry, among scorpions, mantis and others. They have an architectural and tactile feel. The pieces are made by his hand in Italy, from 100% recycled sterling and indulge in the inspiration he finds in nature.  His other new pieces have deep grey finishes, organic subjects, and modern geometric incarnations.

Mario has been making jewelry for over thirty years, first beginning as a line in the USA in 1985. His was work carried in major department stores and in fashion magazines.  In the 90s, he took a hiatus from jewelry and became involved in the interior and lighting design world. He recently returned to his love of jewelry in 2011, with the launch of this new line.  As such, he is new to the scene again and somewhat under valued on instagram!  He regularly displays in New York in person, and I was lucky enough to meet and purchase the spider necklace from Mario. He has a calm sweet demeanor and I look forward to seeing more of his new work. So without further ado let’s explore his A++ jewelry.

Favorite shots from Instagram:

Pieces we covet:

SHOP HIS PIECES ONLINE HERE: Sales and New items!

*All images from Mario’s website and instagram feed, rights reserved to him.

Jewelry Alert, Emerald City: Budget Friendly Alternatives to the Striking Gemstone

The Golden Globes 2018 gave us a lot, like a rousing speech from Oprah Winfrey while accepting the Golden Globes’ annual Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. Female solidarity through a dress code of all black.

Celebrities reportedly collaborated on the statement-making all black color scheme in December, but we’re wondering if there weren’t also whispers among some of the ladies about going green with their jewelry. Zoe Kravitz, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Issa Rae, and Debra Messing were a few of the actresses who brought emerald city to the carpet. It’s a less featured color so it was kind of perfect for the unique tone at this year’s Globes, popping against the various beautiful range of skin tones.  But…emerald’s do cost top dollar. Don’t let that discourage you though! We’ve got great options that can help you get the look for less. Shop the new power color below in an array of glamorous choices!

And tell us, would you go green with the emerald trend?

Kate Spade New York Bright Idea Stud Earrings 

 

KENDRA SCOTT Elaina Birthstone Bracelet 

Lab-Created Emerald and White Sapphire Ring in Sterling Silver

 

 

Sterling Silver 5mm Round Simulated Gemstone Earrings

 

Emerald Stackable Ring

 

GlitZ Finery Multi Row Crystal Station Accent Necklace

 

Lab-Created Emerald Necklace 10K Yellow Gold

Colors in Rhythm Earrings Lab-Created Emeralds Sterling Silver

 

Celebrating the Color Green on Sarara Couture: Please check out our options!

 

Sunday Funday with the Jewelry of Annelise Michelson

Each Sunday we pick a jewelry or accessories minded shop or instagram account and give them our jewelry report card!  It’s that time again… so grab a glass of wine and join us in France… The instagram account that most inspired us this week belongs to A++ jewelry designer Annelise Michelson.  Firstly, Annelise’s work walks that line we love the most; that feminine, natural, yet tough strut.  Her designs are sculptural works…organic, but modern and at times as appear as hard as steel.

“Although she was trained to sketch, Annelise feels her way through each piece, moulding, sculpting and draping rough materials to create collections that live in her mind for months and years like obsessions before they are produced”.(AnneliseMichelson.com/bio)

Her pieces are really in synch with fashion today as well, but also with the female body and its strengths. Her training was done at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, which eventually led her to jewelry design. We are currently obsessed with the sea leaf ring, earrings and the whole freaking “algae” collection.  Each piece is made in France, in limited quantities which also makes them special. Her client list is impressive, ranging from Carine Roitfeld to Alexa Chung among others. You can find her work now in Bergdorf Goodman and Fivestory among other places throughout the world. 

Why is her instagram account so alluring? Well, you will find a clean, inspiring palette which includes travel photography, her sculptural jewelry, newly arriving items, and beautiful pieces on beautiful people…@annelisemichelson follow her, you are welcome!

We’ve chosen our favorites from her online shop below. 

*All images belong to Annelise via her webshop or instagram account.

The Best Bling from the Golden Globes 2018 Red Carpet Blackout

Celebrities are usually out to make a fashion statement when they walk the red carpet. But, for the Golden Globes 2018 tv and movie stars, as well as other notable names, used fashion to make a statement. Being called the the “blackout“, female and male attendees wore black in protest for equal rights and solidarity with sexual assault victims. The #timesup was a cry of support throughout instagram. With everyone in a single color to represent many voices, the ladies each signed their declarative support of women’s rights uniquely with their jewelry. And here are the ones that caught our eye the most.

 

Jessica Biel

Image via Justin’s instagram account. Jessica wore Bulgari earrings and a stack of diamond bracelets.

Tracee Ellis Ross Instagram image: Marc Jacobs dress, Irene Neuwirth earrings. Custom pearl and gold Irene Neuwirth ring.

Viola Davis

Viola Davis via her feed, wearing Harry Winston jewelry.

Millie Bobby Brown

Millie Bobby Brown in Repossi diamond ear cuffs.

Catherine Zeta-Jones

Via Instagram Catherine Zeta-Jones Lorraine Schwartz

Katherine Langford

Tricia Durrant Instagram image of Katherine Langford’s Hair jewelry.

Zoe Kravitz

Zoe Kravitz Instagram: Zoe Kravitz in Lorraine Schwartz

 

Jewelry Report Card:The Enchanted Jewels of Anabela Chan

Sunday’s jewelry report card is a time when we crown our favorite instagram jewelry themed account of the week. We look at influencers, artists… as well as stylists and jewelers. This week the work of Anabela Chan really blew our minds!  Her luxurious approach to the pieces, lush sense of color and how she relates nature to jewelry made our editor Sara swoon.  The pieces are ethically sustainable and fun! Plus, they have a fashion element to them.  She trained as an architect and worked in the sphere of fashion for Alexander McQueen. Anabela grew up in London and Paris and was trained at the world-renowned Royal College of Art and Gemmological Association of Great Britain. Using ethical lab grown stones she challenges the industries notions.

I want to create magical, fun and fabulous jewels that tell stories. We champion fine jewellery with ethical lab-grown gemstones that share the unrivalled beauty and optical qualities of natural gemstones.  Sustainable, cultured gemstones reduces the human and environmental toll by without destructive use of mining and untraceable provenance.

My pieces combine the magic of high jewellery with a modern wearability and ethical sustainability; with a joyful playfulness reminiscence of our childhood dreams.  It is about offering inspiring, beautifully-crafted jewels with longevity; works of art that are worn, loved and treasured forever.”     Anabela Chan

We chose her instagram account as one to follow, because it is a panorama of beautiful inspirational color and whimsey. Her themes include botanical and wild references such as butterflies. Anabela is one to watch, as she has acquired quite a list of prestigious awards in terms of the jewelry community, but is also being discovered by celebrities and the fashion industry. Rita Ora and Rihanna among others, have worn her jewelry and her work has been shown in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, W magazine….

Her account wows us with color and personal inspiration. To be honest one should get her jewelry while they can because her prices are sure to go up in the future. It was so hard to decide what our favorites were- some were already sold out, but we have complied a list below.   Follow her @AnabelaChan

Her are some tantalizing images from her instagram account-

WANT:

 

Ham Yard Hotel . Piccadilly Circus .  London . W1D 7AH . +44(0)20 7287 5841 

As any true artist would, she also offers bespoke and commission pieces, as well as more one of a kind examples in her online shop.  

International Design Awards

British Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship and Design Awards in Fine Jewellery, Platinum Jewellery 2012, 2013
Gemmological Association of Great Britain Award 2012
Studio William Cutlery Design Gold Award 2012
Sponsored by Swarovski 2012, 2013
ITS Finalist 2012, 2013
Vogue VFDE New Talent Award 2014
*All images via AnabelaChan.com or @anabelachan

 

Jewelry Report Card: Didier London, the best of art jewelry!

 

This Sunday’s jewelry report card is a walk through the art jewelry gallery Didier, London.  Each weekend we bringing you our pick for the best online visual jewelry destination on instagram. The accessories accounts we choose also present either a visual feast both on and off instagram or offer unique storefronts as well.   It’s rare that someone excites and surprises us weekly, but this is one such case. Didier’s collection holds works of jewelry art by Calder, Picasso, Man Ray, Louise Nevelson and well beyond. People are catching on too, recent press includes magazines and newspapers. Their jewelry bridges iconic and interesting artist made jewelry pieces of non fine as well as fine material.  I’ve followed them for a little while on instagram, indulging in their posts, which often feature a beautiful model wearing the sculptural works. One such example they have for sale, is a personal favorite of mine created by Italian designer Getulio Alviani. Called “the ear disc” it was photographed in fashion magazines and created in 1965 in aluminum. His jewelry combines technology, architectural, and sculptural aspects. More information via this article link.  

monorecchio

Didier, Ltd recently opened an online storefront, which provides us more access to offerings that they normally show at events like the Winter Antiques Show in New York City. Their gallery, now in Kensington, was originally opened in 2006 by Didier and Martine Haspeslagh. As with the two owners, they also have not one but two instagram destinations. The second is @artistjewel, which we also follow.  Below, is the vintage image of the Arnaldo Pomodoro positive negative rings, followed by the one that Didier, Ltd owns.

Instagram can serve for the jewelry lover, as a place to be surprised, enthralled, and further educated about great jewelry. Didier’s account does just this, as they regularly post images of unique and rare pieces. Their offerings include such spectacular accessories by Harry Bertoia, Karel Appel, Max Ernst and other modern design masters, that it makes it hard to choose what pieces we like best. Below are some snaps of our favorite instagram images from both accounts:

 

 

*Images by Didier, London via their online store and instagram account.