Spotlight on: Elsa Peretti, pioneering jewellery designer

It’s International Women’s Day, so today’s spotlight had to be on trailblazing jewellery designer Elsa Peretti, who started out as the epitome 70s cool and continues to design gorgeous, innovative jewellery to this day. I mean, what’s not to love about a woman who casually refers to Andy Warhol (once a close friend) as ‘a bit of a shit’…?

Peretti wearing her own designs.

Born in Florence in 1940, Peretti studied interior design before becoming a fashion model and moving to New York in the 1960s. It was in New York that she began to design jewellery independently, creating forward-thinking pieces in sensual shapes and elegant materials.

A significant member of the Studio 54 scene, in the late 60s and early 70s, Peretti lived a tempestuous life that was as glamorous and edgy as her designs. After several drug-fuelled years, she got clean, going on to win the Coty award for her jewellery designs in 1971. In 1972, Bloomingdale’s gave her her own boutique spot; the same year, she made her first Vogue appearance. She also designed for close friend and fellow club-scene-member, fashion designer Halston.

Peretti in 1975. Photo by Helmut Newon.

In 1974, Peretti joined Tiffany as a designer, and it was this partnership which made her a household name. It continues to this day, with the now-elderly Peretti designing from her Catalan bolt-hole, Sant Martí Vell. She still makes 10% of Tiffany’s profits from her designs, more than any other designer in the company.

So, why is Elsa Peretti such a significant figure in jewellery design? Part of her success lies in how effectively her original designs captured a moment and a mood, that of seventies New York. Rebellion, excess, disco, women’s liberation – it’s all reflected in the boldness and sculptural nature of Peretti’s designs, which are meant to take the wearer effortlessly from boardroom to dancefloor. From statement cuffs to stylised hearts and hoop earrings, it’s that most elusive of styles: wearable high fashion.

The young Peretti was no stranger to rebellion by the time she began designing; she fled her wealthy, conservative family for Barcelona at 21, before moving to America to model. Endowed with natural style and charisma, she modelled to pay the bills while pursuing her real interest: jewellery design.

Not content with simply designing, Peretti began to change trends in jewellery design as well, using silver in her work. At the time, silver was considered ‘common’ in fine jewellery, but Peretti’s elegant, exciting, silver designs soon changed that.

The first piece Peretti made was a tiny silver vase, hung from a chain and with a tiny rosebud inside it. Anyone who was anyone went made for the novel idea, and vases & bottles are a popular motif in Peretti’s collections even today:

Her simple, sexy designs were unlike anything that had come before, and her most iconic piece, the 1974 ‘Bone’ cuff was an instant hit with everyone from Sophia Loren to Liza Minelli. Even today, this design appears on the red-carpet wrists of the likes of Rachel Weisz and Rosamund Pike, showing its timeless appeal and eternal cool.

Peretti is also inspirational because of her take-no-shit attitude and enormous work ethic. She insisted on keeping her own name and intellectual property rights when she signed with Tiffany & Co., so her collection is ‘Elsa Peretti for Tiffany’. She also isn’t backward in coming forward about her success: as she put it to Vanity Fair, ‘I am very happy with what I’ve done. I knew a man wasn’t going to give me money,’


In 2000, Peretti took the money she had inherited from her family and put it into a foundation in her father’s name. The Nando Peretti foundation works globally to support human rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, and a host of other causes, and Peretti is personally involved in the work even now.


If that wasn’t enough, in 2012, aged 72, she signed a new 20-year contract with Tiffany!



Around Central Asia in 80 patterns

If you’re anything like me, this horrid weather and the endless accompanying snow chat is making you long for a bit of sun, so I thought I’d do a throwback travel post and daydream about sunnier times!

For our honeymoon, the Goblin and I went on a Silk Road-inspired tour of Central Asia, and let me tell you, that place is design inspiration from morning till night. Every surface seems to be coated in vibrant blue and turquoise tiles, which contrast beautifully against the sandy brown of buildings and landscapes alike.


It’s no wonder the colours and shapes on the Silk Road inspired some of my latest collection…

Reasons suggested for the proliferation of blue in Central Asian architecture vary, but one I like is that it’s a cultural memory from pre-Islamic Central Asia, where Tengrism was the predominant religion. In Tengrism, the sky is worshipped as a god, so the colour blue is the most holy. This would explain why so many mosques and madrassahs in the region use blue rather than green, which is a more significant colour in Islam. Of course, the popularity of bright blue probably also has something to do with the regional proliferation of the ishkor plant which can be turned into a vibrant blue glaze of the same name…

As well as the gorgeous, historic blue tiling, more modern cities such as Ashgabat and Almaty also provided some inspiration. From Ashgabat’s gold and marble to Almaty’s Soviet gems, there was something for everyone (ok, mostly for me!).

So without further ado, let’s go around Central Asia in 80 patterns…

Khiva, Uzbekistan


Samarkand, Uzbekistan


Bukhara, Uzbekistan


Shakrisabz, Uzbekistan


Ashgabat, Turkmenistan


Almaty, Kazakhstan


-sigh- Until next time, Central Asia! I quite fancy the World Nomad Games in 2020…

Disney Designs 3: Mulanniversary

It’s almost the weekend, so I thought a light treat was in order: another post in my Disney Designs series. This week’s film is one of my all-time faves, partly because it came out when I was little, and partly because it features a badass female hero (let’s just ignore the questionable depictions of the Huns).

Also, it came out 20 years ago this June (I’m not old, YOU’RE OLD), so it seems a good time to look into its jewellery…

Source: Giphy

For obvious reasons, Mulan wasn’t the first film that came to mind when I was thinking of Disney Designs post ideas. However, the scene where Mulan’s dad gives her the lotus hair comb (awwww) got me thinking. Now, the original ballad of Hua Mulan on which the Disney film is based is set in either the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), or during the reign of Emperor Yang of Sui China (reigned 604-617), depending on which source you use. In our case, it doesn’t much matter, because during both periods, hair combs were a popular means of self-decoration and of showing your social status.

Source: Giphy

Combs began to act as status signifiers during the Wei and Jin dynasties, around 100 years before the first given date for the story of Mulan, and by time of the Northern Wei dynasty, they were all the rage. Comb styles during this period were fine-toothed and delicate, like this:

Fast forward to the Sui dynasty, and they became larger, higher and more ornate:

Unfortunately, Mulan is set fairly early in the history of Chinese hair combs, so I want to take the opportunity to share some of the more fantastic creations the following couple of centuries brought to the country (the Tang Dynasty was when combs really hit their stride as a fashion accessory…):

That’s all for Mulan – which movie should I explore next? Let me know in the comments…


Sources/further reading:

For hours of looking through pretty comb pics, check out Creative Museum’s website.

For further reading on Chinese hair combs through history, get stuck into this comprehensive article by Huang Jin-Sui.

For another strong female leader from the Wei period, try this article on Empress Feng (442-490).

Crafting For Crazy People Part II: Craftpod review*

As I’ve discussed previously on this blog, I use crafts as a tool to manage my mental health conditions, as well as for the enjoyment of creating, so imagine my delight when my mum gave me a quarterly craft subscription box for my birthday.

Luckily I didn’t have long to wait to try out my new subscription, since it came the following week. Much more cheering post than the usual round of bills, credit card spam and pizza menus (although those are always fairly welcome…)!

This particular subscription box is called Craftpod, and each box is themed around the season it’s released during. This one couldn’t have come at a better time, with January being even colder and more miserable than usual this year, and the theme is all about cosiness and comfort. Perfect!

When I opened the box, I found: a letter explaining the box, all the equipment and instructions for an embroidery project, all the equipment and instructions for a stamp-making project, a cute woodland-patterned postcard, a sheet of wintry stickers, a black chai teabag, and a bar of Vivani chocolate.

I’ll tell you more about the craft projects below, but I just want to mention the extra touches first that made opening the box so enjoyable for me. I absolutely love the tea and chocolate element in the winter box; it feels very self-care-focused, which is exactly what I look for in craft projects, particularly at this time of year. From my mum, I also knew that there would be two craft projects and tea, but I wasn’t expecting the extra stationery bits, so they were a really nice surprise. All of the collateral is gorgeous as well, which is a lovely little touch that makes the box feel that bit more special and treat-like. The instructions are also super easy to follow and written in a friendly, approachable way that makes it feel a bit like Jo is crafting along with you!

I’ve not had time to get stuck into the stamp-making yet, but I’m absolutely loving my embroidery hoop. It’s really simple but has enough detail and different stitches/parts to it to still be engaging, which is a balance I sometimes struggle to find with embroidery projects, since I’m not a particularly accomplished embroiderer… It’s also just repetitive enough with all the berries to be quite meditative (as Jo points out in the instructions as well), so very relaxing to do in front of the TV of an evening.

The stamp-making project seems like a good contrast to the embroidery, since it’s a bit more active and (for me at least!) exotic. I also love making things that are useable, not just decorative, so it’s right up my street. I’ll come back and post pics when I’ve made my stamps so you can see how they turn out!

Overall, I would seriously recommend this box for anyone who enjoys crafting, particularly as a means of self-care. As I mentioned in my previous post, I sometimes feel pressure to finish projects quickly so I can have something to show for my efforts, so the frequency of this box is perfect for me. Two projects every three months is enough to have exciting and relaxing things to do, but not so many that it feels overwhelming and just wouldn’t get used. If the box was monthly, I think I’d feel a bit stressed by the number of projects that ‘needed’ doing, and it would deplete the enjoyment a little.

This box feels like it was made for me, which was my mum’s comment when she gave me the gift, so great work, Mum! If you want to learn more about Craftpod, you can visit the website, or search the #craftpod tag on Instagram to see makes from current subscribers.

*This is not a sponsored post (if ONLY I got paid to chat about crafting!); I’ve just really enjoyed my first Craftpod and wanted to share the recommendation. If you’re interested in receiving fun, themed craft projects for every season, or gifting that experience to a crafty loved one, you can head to the Craftpod website to subscribe.

(Welsh) love is all you need…

January is super depressing; we all know this. Yesterday was Blue Monday, which in itself was basically a faux-scientific marketing tool…but it still managed to be excessively bleak, so I thought I’d look ahead to a more jolly day in January: the 25th, Dydd Santes Dwynwen.

What’s Dydd Santes Dwynwen…I asked about 5 years ago when my Welsh husband, The Goblin, mentioned it. In very simple terms, it’s a sort of Welsh Valentine’s Day, and, like Valentine’s Day, it’s rooted in the (sometimes violent) life of a Christian patron saint of love. Huzzah! It’s got everything The Goblin and I need from a holiday: medieval history, avoiding other people, and feeling slightly smug for avoiding the more commercial option…

Source: Giphy

But first things first: who was St. Dwynwen? There are a few different narratives for this (unsurprisingly, since it’s a mixture of Celtic and Christian lore), so I’m going to go with the most cohesive and least unpleasant one (because, believe me, some are unpleasant!).


Most stories agree that sometime around the 5th century CE, a girl named Dwynwen was born to Brychan Brycheiniog, either the son of an Irish king or a Welsh proto-king. She lived in the modern-day Brecon Beacons area, and, as the prettiest of Brycheiniog’s 24 (!) daughters, attracted a lot of attention. Maelon Dyfodrull, an at-first-seemingly-generic male character, fell in love with Dwynwen, and she returned his affections (again, not in every version). However, due to her aforementioned beauty, Dwynwen’s father had been planning to marry her off for political gain, and forbade the union.

Source: Pinterest

Maelon, clearly an entitled piece of work, lost his shit at Dwynwen when he heard the news, and, afraid and upset, Dwynwen did what any heartbroken teenage girl would do in the 5th century: she ran off into the woods to weep. Maelon followed her in a rage (in a the more adult and perhaps more believable version of the story, it gets a bit Law and Order SVU at this point) and, frightened of what he would do, Dwynwen prayed to stop loving him. An angel, taking pity on her, gave her a potion to drink to forget him, and turned him into ice to stop him being a threat. The angel then granted her three wishes, and the kind hearted Dwynwen prayed for Maelon to be thawed, then that God should help all true lovers, and finally that she herself should never have to marry.

Source: Pinterest

Wishes granted, Dwynwen demonstrated her gratitude by becoming a nun and founding a convent on the beautiful island of Landdwyn, in Anglesey. It might seem an extreme response to a bad experience with someone’s advances, but I can see the appeal of being a hermit on a beautiful island… After her death in 465CE, the church became a pilgrimage spot for young lovers. You can still visit the remains of the convent today, and peer into St Dwynwen’s sacred well (I see you giggling over there) to see the sacred fish and eels who, legend has it, will tell your romantic future with their movements…

The cult of Dwynwen remained strong over the centuries despite the attempts of the Reformation to quash such activity, and even today there is an annual service at her ruined church. It might have something to do with her seemingly cheerful and hopeful nature despite the crappy hand she got dealt; the best-known saying attributed to her is ‘Nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness’. D’awwww.

Like any good legend, there appears to be a kernel of truth in the story of St. Dwynwen, as this extremely interesting article explains in a more scholarly way than my armchair research allows! Sadly there seems to be no authentic hagiography of Dwynwen, which is a shame given what it could reveal about 5th century Welsh society, but given her appearance in early genealogies of her father, it does seem she was a real person at least.

Source: Pinterest

Dydd Santes Dwynwen has only been celebrated in earnest as a lovers’ day since the 1970s, as a rebellion against the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day…which suits the Goblin and I just fine! One of the main reasons we celebrate DSD rather than Valentine’s is that it’s much easier to get a table somewhere nice, and you’re not surrounded by snogging couples, teddy bears and heart balloons… The celebration is an interesting mix of ancient and really modern, and I kind of like that it’s simultaneously traditional and a modern invention.

However, despite DSD’s youth, some much older Welsh traditions have been tied into the celebration, most notably the carving of lovespoons. Lovespoons were first recorded in Wales in the 17th century CE, although it’s believed the tradition is much older. They also have a really interesting symbolic language of their own, of which more here. They are meant to show off the skill of a woodcarver, and I think this selection succeeds…


And, of course, DSD involves the giving of cards and gifts…

Available at Draenog on Etsy

…and going out for such a big dinner your special occasion undies are totally pointless!


State your case

While researching a previous post, I discovered the existence of state gemstones, and I was delighted. Some American states, it turns out, started adopting state gemstones in the late 1960s, as a marketing tool to promote stones which were an important part of their economy. Although this is a rather less romantic origin story than I’d hoped for, I’ve still enjoyed finding out which stones fit where, so here goes…

  • Alabama – The Heart of Dixie chose its gemstone in 1990…and it shows. Have you ever seen a more 90s gem than this blue star quartz? They do redeem themselves by having our old pal haematite as their ‘state mineral’, though, so we can’t judge them too harshly!
Star Blue Quartz
Source: Wikipedia
  • Arizona: Turquoise – I would have thought this would be California’s vibe, but there we go…
Available here
  • Arkansas: Nothing but the best for Arkansas, ‘the Wonder State’: their state stone is a diamond.
  • California: Unsurprisingly, the Golden State’s official mineral is, well, gold! The state gemstone is one I hadn’t heard of before: the obscure but pretty blue benitoite:
Source: Wikicommons
  • Colorado: Aquamarine
Available here
  • Connecticut: Connecticut doesn’t technically have a state gemstone, but its state mineral is almandine garnet, which is a nice brown colour. Very popular with the Victorians, apparently.
Source: Wikipedia
  • Florida: Despite being full of alligators and serial killers, Florida wins this list because it has my new favourite stone as its state gem: moonstone.
  • Georgia: I guess Georgia was too busy growing peaches to hone their gemstone selection too carefully, so they just have quartz. Just all kinds of quartz, apparently!
  • Hawaii: Black coral. It’s pretty, but I’ve never felt the same about coral since I watched Blue Planet and learnt they expand by puking themselves onto other corals and absorbing them.
Not pictured: copious amounts of vom… Image source:
  • Idaho: The so-called Gem State is a bit disappointing with their choice of star garnet, which is basically just black garnet as far as I can tell. Shame!
  • Kentucky: Kentucky’s keeping it classy with freshwater pearls – can’t argue with that.
  • Louisiana: Finally, a hint of scandal! Louisiana’s state gemstone from 1976 to 2011 was Louisiana agate, but this was ditched in 2011 for Lapearlite, which is the shell of the Eastern Oyster. But why? Well, it seems it was an attempt to boost the fishing industry by publicising this new gemstone, and the Louisiana agate was installed as the state’s first-ever official mineral. They made this change by law – apparently they take their official gemstones serious!
  • Maine: Maine’s keeping it varied with tourmaline, which comes in a whole host of lovely colours.
Ooooooooh, puuuuuuurdy. Image source: Pinterest.
  • Maryland: Patuxent River Stone Agate is only found in Maryland, and its red-orange colour echoes the Maryland flag – perfect! Excellent marketing there.
Source: Wikipedia
  • Massachusetts: Rhodonite – aka my wardrobe that awful year dressing like you were an extra in Grease was in (circa 2002).
Source: Pinterest
  • Michigan: Chlorastrolite, another form of the greenstone/nephrite jade we saw earlier.
  • Minnesota: Lake Superior agate, a local, iron-filled agate.
  • Montana: These magpies have not one but TWO state gems: the Montana sapphire and the Montana agate. Montana sapphires are only mined within the state, and have a pale, denim blue colour and exceptional clarity.
Found around the Yellowstone River. Source:
  • Nebraska: Yet more agate, blue this time.
  • Nevada: Another magpie state: black fire opal and turquoise (no surprises there – states near the current (and behind the old!) Mexican border obviously mine a lot of the stuff). Black fire opal is quite full-on, though – I’d probably have just stuck with the turquoise…
Source: Pinterest
  • New Hampshire: Keeping it classy with a muted smoky quartz.
  • New Mexico: Turquoise – shocker!
  • New York: Garnet. Another one of my faves; they get points for this.
  • North Carolina: Sticking with the cardinal stones, North Carolina has beautiful green emerald as their state gemstone.
Available here
  • Ohio: Ohio flint. I’d argue this isn’t a gemstone, but Wikipedia claims otherwise…
I mean, I guess I sort of see it…? Source: Wikipedia
  • Oregon: Oregon sunstone laboradite. I’m liking states naming their gems after themselves – nice and tidy.
Source; Wikipedia
  • South Carolina: Amethyst – strong showing from the Carolinas!
  • South Dakota: Fairburn agate (reddish)
  • Tennessee: Tennessee river pearl – the deep south loves a classic pearl, it would seem…
  • Texas: Texas blue topaz. For bonus points, Texas also have their own stone cut: the Lone Star Cut. It’s big and over the top, so seems fitting! It looks like this:
  • Utah: More topaz – no colour, just general topaz.
  • Vermont: Grossular garnet. Not a grimmer version of garnet, just a type with a different structure!
  • Washington: Petrified wood. I mean, I get what they’re trying to do but c’mon, guys, it’s not a gemstone. Didn’t your namesake teach you not to lie?!
I mean, right? It’s not even shiny! Source: Wikipedia
  • West VirginiaLithostrotionella fossil coral. Kind of gross, kind of pretty. What do you think?
Source: Wikipedia
  • Wyoming: Wyoming’s rounding us off nicely – we’re back to nephrite jade.


And there you have it! Not all states have stones (boo), but those who do tend to really go niche with their choices (not surprising if they’re limited to what they can grow in-state I suppose!) which made for some interesting research.

What would your state stone be if you had one? I’m torn between moonstone and haematite, although garnet is a close third…

New Year, Same Me

Let’s be honest, new year does not mean a new you, whatever WeightWatchers adverts might try and sell you. You’re the same person you were yesterday, and that’s actually fine. You don’t have to change anything, if you don’t want to, and there’s no reason you ‘have’ to do it now. I know that sounds negative, but actually, 2018 is pretty much the first year I’ve been fairly ok with being the same person on January 1 as I was on December 31, soooo…


I also tend to find New Year’s Resolutions are a bit rigid and intimidating for people of the crazy persuasion (and mostly useless for people who aren’t, to be honest). That being said, I do do goals. It’s always good to have something to aim for, as long as you keep it realistic, and for me, the start of a new year feels like a nice tidy time as any to set them. If you do want to change things or start things or stop things, the new year is a good time to think about that.

However, it can get a bit stressful or feel pressured, so my key advice for effective start-of-year goal setting is as follows:

  • Ignore everyone else – seriously, just because Alex in the Comms team is going vegan and your friend Sam has started a punishing gym routine doesn’t mean that a) you have to or b) your goal of washing your hair every other day is any less valid.
  • If you do want to set big goals, that’s good too, just make sure you’ve got some smaller, more short-term ones to keep your morale up while you work towards the big ones.
  • If you don’t know where to start, think about how your life is now and how you’d like it to be different, then start moulding your goals around that.
  • Make a mood/dream/picture board or a list or a Trello or all those things – fun, visual goal-setting is the best kind. If, like The Goblin, you’re a biro-list-on-lined paper person, that’s great, if, like me, you’re a glittery mood board person, that’s great too. The main thing is helping yourself visualise it.

635922832360675432-1763852986_leslie knope organized

So, what am I planning? Working a full-time day job as well as running a business and attempting to maintain some form of social life is a bit manic (sometimes literally!) so I’ve here are a few business and non-business things I’m planning to do in 2018…


  1. Launch three new jewellery collections (duh)
  2. Complete my stone-setting course (and set at least one bloody ring, which between honeymoon and illness I’ve failed to do this term…)
  3. Reach 1000 sales on Etsy (this one may be a bit high, but I need something to aim for)
  4. Make on average one custom order per month (this one may be a little low but I want to make it achievable)
  5. Carry on learning Welsh – that’s right, dw i’n dysgu cmraeg!
  6. Practise at least one musical instrument once a week (this one shouldn’t be hard, I used to do 3 hours a night, but that was when I was at school and only thought I was busy…)
  7. Write more articles like this one for online magazines
  8. Take two baths per month with bath bombs (seriously, these days I have to schedule in my relaxation in advance)
  9. One business-free evening a week (again, easier said than done, but it would be nice to actually hang out with The Goblin some time…)

I reckon that’s plenty to be getting on with! What about you, lovely readers – do you have any goals you’re aiming at in 2018? Let me know in the comments – and good luck!