Color Me Celadon

Hope you like wasabi! Even if you’re not inclined to clear your sinuses with a mouthful of stinging Japanese horseradish, be prepared to see the green color everywhere early in the next millennium. Wasabi is a sort of “washed celadon green,” as described by the Color Marketing Group (CMG). Jewelers might prefer to think of it as “intense peridot.”

Since 1962, CMG has been the behind-the-scenes organization that predicts the colors of consumer products – i.e., whether our new refrigerators, blenders, and automobiles will be avocado, almond, or just plain white. (So influential is CMG that you could almost say it dictates the choice of colors.) What a coincidence that the group was founded shortly before avocado green become popular in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Until then, most appliances came in a standard choice of white or white, but when green, brown, orange, and gold versions hit the market, consumers eagerly snapped them up.

But just like the infamous leisure suit, avocado-green refrigerators proved that a new idea isn’t necessarily a better idea – especially when applied to a hefty investment like a major appliance. After the green leisure suit was long gone to the Salvation Army, people were still stuck with the green kitchen.

Colors, like fashions, tend to be recycled – with a few twists – every 20 years or so. For example, two-tone cars, popular in the 1950s and again in the 1970s, are coming back into vogue. And right now, Kermit the Frog should feel right at home. Automakers now consider green to be a basic vehicle color like black, red, or white, while the entire spectrum of green gemstones, whether emerald, tourmaline, peridot, tsavorite, chrysocolla, or jade, is tremendously popular.

Other colors CMG has predicted for the year 2000 are “snow,” a cool white; a gender-neutral shade of pink; “biscotti,” a neutral, clean, soft yellow not to be confused with the more tan-based biscuit; and “squid ink,” a dark grayish-blue. But even if wasabi proves to be the next avocado, you can rest assured that it won’t be coming to a fridge near you. The fridges of the future are far more likely to be a safe, neutral “snow” or “biscuit.”

But we hear the forecasters are betting on pinks for the next hot fashion color. Hopefully that means pink tourmalines, not pink toasters!

Jewelry as Art

Kent State University Museum and the 27 members of the American Jewelry Design Council got together recently, and the results were stunning. At an exhibition entitled “Bridges to Design,” the university, located in Kent, Ohio, is showing more than 80 imaginative designs from these artists.

According to the guest curator and Kent fashion professor Roxanne Precopia, the concept was to present jewelry as a work of art and at the same time to show the many steps needed to make it. Using themes selected by the council, such as a wheel, a key, or anything inspirational, the exhibit illustrates some of the innovative techniques used by the designers, including Michael Good’s anticlastic raising, Henry Dunay’s masterly pavé, and Steven Kretchmer’s modern alchemy with precious metals.

Objects on exhibit include the whimsical bialys and pinwheels of Sandy Baker; the swirl sphere designs of Ron Hartgrove; artful, one-of-a-kind pieces with handcarved gemstones from Susan Helmich; and Paul Robilotti’s Summer’s Dance brooch of silver, silk, a feather, and an antique light bulb.

This exhibition is a departure for the museum, which usually focuses its attention on fashion, but according to museum director Jean Druesedow, the theme was selected “to broaden understanding of jewelry arts by exploring new ways of working with precious metals and gems.”

Bridges to Design opened in September and runs through Jan. 31. For information, call (330) 672-3450.

Magnetic Attraction

It may not be animal magnetism, but it has the potential to attract customers the same way. It’s an innovative necklace from Japan being distributed internationally by Bellon of Valence, France, known for its gold-and-gemstone jewelry.

Marketed as “Magnetic Lace,” the item is an upscale version of the rubber cord necklaces used in fashion jewelry, but with a twist. It has a magnetized core, allowing it to be adjustable to any neck size and to be worn comfortably without a clasp. The 24-in.-long tube, available in two gauges and three colors, is simply coiled around the neck where the magnets keep it secure.

Company president Pierre Bellon says retailers in France, where the necklace is already being sold, often use it as a gift-with-purchase. It costs about $50 and can be sold as-is or with a pendant attached.

Eliminating the common problem of a too-small pendant bail, the company also offers an 18k gold coil for attaching pendants whose bails are too narrow to slide onto the rubber. The pendant is threaded onto the coil and the coil slipped around the rubber tubing, resulting in a contemporary look for a classic pendant.

Bellon can be reached at (33-475) 423333; fax (33-475) 435268.

A Dollar for Dolley

Long before this venerable institution became known for fabulous diamonds and stylish designer collections, Tiffany & Co. was a silversmith. And even though the earliest Blue Books listing all Tiffany products were far more utilitarian than today’s stylish books, Charles Lewis Tiffany was recognized as the silversmith to the rich and famous.

Now, thanks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the recognition has come full circle. Tiffany & Co. was commissioned to create the design for the Dolley Madison Commemorative Silver Dollar, to honor the first lady on the 150th anniversary of her death. The coin is scheduled to be issued this month.

The coin’s obverse depicts the image of Dolley Madison surrounded by Cape Jasmine Gardenias and a domed temple in the background; the reverse, the Virginia mansion of Montpelier that she shared with husband, James Madison. The design was donated by Tiffany & Co., and the coin will be produced by the United States Mint. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the coin will help build the endowment of Montpelier, one of the National Trust historic sites.

Jewelry from TV Land

A Renaissance woman who has passed fleetingly through a number of creative careers, Norma Wellington is rapidly building her reputation for her limited-edition and one-of-a-kind jewelry designs by giving women what they want: unique, statement-making pieces that offer versatility and ease of wear.

Her pre-jewelry life included stints as a staff producer for Channel 5, New York, a voice-over artist and performer in television commercials, and a script writer for a 13-week television show. She was trained as both an artist and a mezzo-

soprano. One of her most notable pieces of jewelry was one she created for the nationally televised daytime drama “The Edge of Night,” a piece so distinctive that it became pivotal to the show’s plot.

Wellington credits her design inspiration to her travels to Egypt, Asia, and Europe, where she collected estate pieces, unique gemstones, and other artifacts to incorporate into her designs.

Oh, and one other thing – she is also an antique dealer who participates regularly in New Jersey antique shows.

Although she proudly totes up 15 years of showcasing her unique designs at Saks Fifth Avenue, Wellington numbers among her clients numerous entertainment celebrities. She is currently offering her collection to selected better jewelers. Her jewelry uses a variety of fancy-shaped gemstones, diamonds, and cultured pearls, set in 14k or 18k gold; retail prices range from $1,500 to $20,000.

Her designs offer the wearer a number of options. “All of my pieces can be worn a variety of ways, so the owners can get the most pleasure out of them,” she explains, deconstructing a brooch that can be turned into a necklace shortener or a stylish pendant.

During her frequent personal appearances, Wellington also advises women on the most flattering silhouettes for their faces and figures and on gems and metals that suit their coloring. “When you choose your jewelry, it should look better than good; it should look great,” she says.

Norma Wellington Designs, Tenafly, N.J.; (201) 567-7554 or (201) 567-2427.

All Mixed Up

Always willing to push the envelope and experiment with unusual materials, a handful of European designers have become known for creating eye-catching jewelry that mixes precious and non-precious materials. Some take the fabulous-fakes route, conjuring up estate-type designs that resemble platinum and diamonds but are crafted of Austrian crystal or cubic zirconia in silver. Others play with color and texture, using a wealth of man-made materials accented with gold, silver, and gemstones.

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