• The Jacklin Collection of Silicified Wood and Minerals

    Petrified Wood is a primary focus of the Jacklin Collection Petrified Wood is a primary focus of the Jacklin Collection on display at Washington State University. Photo from flickr.


    The Jacklin Collection, on display at Washington State University in Pullman, features an extensive collection of silicified (petrified) wood and mineral specimens. Gifted to the University by alumni Lyle and Lela Jacklin in 1983, the collection contains petrified wood dating back 200 million years ago.


    40 Years of Rockhounding

    Housed on the first floor of the Kate B. Webster Physical Sciences Building, the Jacklin Collection features hundreds of mineral and mineralized wood specimens, such as sections of petrified trees. For over 40 years, the Jacklin family spent their free time rockhounding together.

    Scouring the Saddle Mountain region of Vantage, Washington, as well as the Hampton Butte and Swartz Canyon areas of Eastern Oregon, the family eventually expanded into other western states of the US, and even to Europe.

    Many of the specimens in the Jacklin Collection came from California, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, and Arizona. They also hunted in Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

    For some of the more exotic specimens, the Jacklins traded material they had hunted themselves. Some of these exotic specimens come from Mexico and Brazil.


    Highlights from the Jacklin Collection

    The Jacklin Collection represents one of the most extensive collections of cut and polished petrified wood in the United States. Perhaps the most exciting item in the collection is a section of petrified palm tree.

    Believe it or not, palm trees grew abundantly in Central Washington about 12 million years ago, when the climate was far milder. The collection also includes an 8-foot petrified tree, as well as a 500-pound portion of tree trunk which shows evidence of prehistoric beaver teeth marks!

    The majority of the Jacklin Collection consists of similar sections of petrified logs, gorgeous geodes (or thunder eggs), dinosaur bones, and bookends made from petrified wood. The University offers free admission to view the Jacklin Collection during open hours on the weekdays.


    The Jacklin Family

    The family behind the Jacklin Collection resided in Spokane, Washington, during the 1930s through the 1970s. In 1936, Lyle Jacklin, along with his father, and a cousin, founded the Jacklin Seed Company.

    In its beginnings, the Jacklin Seed Company specialized in the development of pea, lentil, and navy bean seeds. After World War II, Lyle's brother Arden joined the company. At that point, the company expanded to include grass seed.

    The Jacklin Seed Company flourished as they expanded to include research, breeding, and production of many types of turf grass seed. Presently, the company holds patents on a number of these varieties of grass seed.

    In 1977, the family moved the company to Post Falls, Idaho, where they began producing Kentucky blue grass seed. Twenty years later, the family sold the company to J.R. Simplot.

    Several generations of Jacklins graduated from Washington State University. In addition to the donation of the Jacklin Collection, the family also sponsors an Education Abroad Endowment.

    Visitors to the WSU campus can stop in and view the Jacklin Collection during the science building's open hours. For more details, please visit the university's website.

  • Hunt for Fossils at Stonerose Interpretive Center

    Aturia angustata, Stonerose Interpretive Center A fossil Aturia angustata, Stonerose Interpretive Center, Gary Eichhorn Ammonite Collection. By Kevmin - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.


    The city of Republic in Washington State offers visitors an exclusive opportunity to hunt for fossils at Stonerose Interpretive Center. Located about three hours southeast of Kelowna, BC in Canada, Stonerose boasts many fossils never seen before. For instance, they have leaf fossils from the earliest species of roses known to man.


    Volcanic & Tectonic Geography

    All of the fossils on display at Stonerose were discovered in Republic. Millions of years ago, this area of Washington State featured an ancient lake. During the Tertiary Period (65 million years ago), volcanic and tectonic activity formed the geographical region that hosts the town of Republic now.

    About 10 to 12 million years later, during the Eocene Period, a lake presided in the area. The ecosystem which developed in and around the lake featured plants, insects, and fish the likes of which are seen nowhere else in Eocene layers on earth.

    Geologists speculate that the geology of this region supported a warm, moist climate. This nearly tropical climate supported broad-leaved trees which now only grow in the southeastern states, as well as plants which now only grow in the Far East.

    Over the following 50 million years or so, more volcanic activity obliterated the lake. This obliteration resulted in layer after layer of shale, volcanic ash which hardened into sedimentary rock.

    Within these layers of shale, imprints of flowers, leaves, insects, and fish skeletons lie hidden, waiting to be discovered.


    Stonerose History

    In the early 1900s, gold diggers flocked to Washington State. In the region northwest of Spokane, the city of Republic grew and flourished in support of these miners.

    These early prospectors, digging in the Eocene lakebed sediments, often found fossils along with their gold. Unfortunately, these early records in brown rock paled in comparison to the shiny metal they unearthed. The wealth of fossils went largely unnoticed until the middle of the century.

    In the 1960s, paleontologists became more interested in understanding the land's history. However, a decade passed before serious interest took hold. In 1977, two paleontologists discovered the extensive nature of the fossil beds in Republic.

    From that time forward, Republic attracted serious researchers. In the mid-1980s, the most prolific fossil beds discovered at Boot Hill attracted even more attention. Between 1984 and 1989, Wesley Wehr worked together with city officials to establish Stonerose Interpretive Center.

    Stonerose assumed the role of discovering, cataloguing, monitoring, and interpreting the amazing fossils found in the area. In 1997, paleontologists from several important natural history museums, including the Smithsonian, traveled to Republic. They spent five days working through an important section of the lakebed, cataloging all the fossils they found.

    These and many other fossils found at the site are now on display in the Stonerose visitor center. Today, Stonerose offers visitors an educational and informative opportunity to view these fossils and learn the important story they tell about the region.

    In addition, Stonerose offers the unique opportunity for visitors to hunt for their own fossils.


    Hunt for Your Own Fossils

    For a small fee, visitors to Stonerose hike up to Boot Hill and hunt for their very own fossils. Using chisels and hammers, "citizen scientists" strike the shale apart, hoping to find a hidden imprint from ages past.

    Though the process requires patience, as well as the right tools and protective gear, the odds of finding a fossil of your own are very good. Before you dig, a member of the Stonerose staff teaches you how and where to search.

    They also go over the rules, which both protect you and the environment in which you dig. Finally, they ask that you bring all the fossils you find back to the center for cataloging and cleaning. Of the fossils you find, you choose three to take home with you. The center retains the rest for scientific purposes.

    Fossil hunting in Republic offers an awesome adventure. I encourage you to visit their website for detailed information about how to prepare for hunting your own fossils.

    If you do take a trip there, would you leave us a comment and let us know whether you found a leaf, a flower, an insect, or a fish fossil?

  • Anna Mlasowsky Wins Award at the BAM Biennial Exhibition

    'Chorus of One' by Anna Mlasowsky Winner of the BAM Glasstastic! Show 2019 Chorus of One by Anna Mlasowsky. Photo courtesy of the artist with permission from Bellevue Arts Museum.


    This stunning work of glass art by Anna Mlasowsky is the one of many PNW works on display at Bellevue Arts Museum. As winner of the John & Joyce Price Award of Excellence, Chorus of One represents the spirit of exploration in which the Glasstastic exhibition was conceived.

    As a malleable material, glass offers so many options to the artist. On view through April 14, Glasstastic explores the medium of glass in all its many forms.


    The Year of Glass

    Glasstastic showcases 49 Pacific Northwest glass artists, each with a unique approach to the medium. This exhibition tops off the museum's biennial exploration of media-based exhibits. From here forward, the BAM biennial will explore art on the basis of central themes.

    Given Seattle's prominence in the artistry of glass, the focus on glass during this culminating show makes perfect sense. Of course, glass expands beyond art, serving vital functional purposes in life. The works on view in Glasstastic explore some of this functionality and also highlight the malleability of glass as art.

    Though simple in its composition, glass provides many forms to work with in creating art - stained glass, blown glass, cast glass. Within each approach, an infinite number of outcomes. Glass can be stretched into razor-thin delicacies, or cast into dense blocks of color.

    It can be cast or blown with smooth, even surfaces. It can also be texturized, imprinted with any pattern under the sun. Glass art stands at a distance, inspiring us with its colorful delights. It also beckons us closer, inviting us to run our hands along its smooth surfaces, or feel the divots and lines of texture it holds for us to enjoy.

    The medium of glass truly stands above so many other media, being so malleable, so easily colored and manipulated, so interactive with light, so ethereal and yet so grounded in everyday reality.

    One piece of glass art shown at the Biennial stands apart from the rest, as a Chorus of One.


    Chorus of One

    Anna Mlasowsky works with many materials to produce her art, including glass. For Glasstastic, she exhibited Chorus of One, a cloak made of plates of a special glass created by Corning Inc., which she mounted on fabric.

    When worn, Chorus of One produces a multitude of tones activated by the movement of the wearer. For its creation, Anna Mlasowsky deeply explored the protective and inhibitory nature of armor. How it both protects and inhibits movement and communication.

    Each plate of this unusual cloak is fashioned from a specialty glass created by Corning Inc. Rhino glass was created for the production of military-grade body armor. It proves shatter-resistant, protecting the wearer from impact.

    Inspired by a rock, each scale of the cloak resembles one face of said rock. The elements of rock and glass armor infuse Chorus of One with their inhibitory properties, constraining movement. Yet, when worn by a dancer, whose sole intention is to fluidly move, this protective shield becomes part of the dance.

    Indeed, it plays the music for the dance. Not surprisingly, Chorus of One won the juried prize for Glasstastic. Not only will Anna Mlasowsky receive a $5,000 cash prize, she also earned a solo exhibition at BAM.


    Anna Mlasowsky

    Anna Mlasowsky moved from Germany to Denmark to study at the Royal Danish Academy. After graduating with a BA in Glass, she moved to Seattle, where she earned her MFA in sculpture from the University of Washington.

    Anna calls glass an analog - a signal, or visual symbol, demonstrating the complex and ever-shifting nature of reality. As a foreigner, in her physical body, her sexuality, and her cultural tradition, she feels the transitory nature of reality more deeply than most.

    In her studio, Anna Mlasowsky immerses herself in a context which highlights the suffering and injustice of the outside world. Within this context, she provides her answers. Using processes and materials which transmute and transform, she creates works of art which express her desires for justice.

    Anna Mlasowsky envisions a social culture with fluid norms, one that embraces a multitude of truths. She longs for a place to call home, where culture, gender, sexuality, and mental state inscribe themselves upon a person like badges of honor.

    Where reality is both what it is and what we make it. A process that involves the cyclical nature of existence - immaturity, pain, violence, suffering, growth, birth, and death.  Not just in the human experience, but also in the experience of flora and fauna, animals and geography.

    If you get a chance to visit Bellevue soon, not only do we hope you'll stop by our Bellevue showroom for a look at our fantastic jewelry. We also hope that you'll spend an hour walking through the Glasstastic exhibition at BAM. To plan your trip, we invite you to visit their website.

  • 'Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams' Exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum

    Inspired by the 2017 Paris Dior Exhibition (featured in this photo), the V&A Museum presents Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams. Inspired by the 2017 Paris Dior Exhibition (featured in this photo), the V&A Museum presents Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams. Photo from Flickr.


    Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams transports visitors into a beautiful fantasy. One thematic room after another in the historic Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), filled with gown after gown after gown. The exhibit showcases over 300 brand-specific objects and 200 couture gowns designed by the House of Dior over the past 72 years.


    Why Christian Dior?

    As mentioned in the photo above, the core pieces from this exhibition first went on display in Paris in 2017. Building upon the success of that show, curator Oriole Cullen imagined an expansion to include the impact Dior had on the UK, and the impact the UK had on Dior.

    Christian Dior, the man, loved to travel. Of course, his travels took him to London, where he fell in love with the tailors of Savile Row. No less than 21 private British clients flocked to purchase Dior's suits and gowns in his first years designing.

    After a year of servicing private UK clients, in 1947, Dior staged his first fashion show at the Savoy Hotel. Many shows followed, including a very important one in 1950.

    One entire room in this exhibition centers on Dior in Britain, beginning with the cream-colored birthday gown worn by Princess Margaret on her 21st birthday. The gown is situated near the Cecil Beaton portrait of the Princess wearing the gown for her birthday portrait.

    The story goes that Christian Dior held a private fashion show for the Queen, Princess Margaret, and the Duchess of Kent in 1950. Held at the French Embassy, the show included the delicious gown. The Princess fell in love immediately, and no wonder. Cream chiffon, off-the shoulder gauzy sleeves, layer upon layer of airy lace, accented with straw embroidered butterflies and crystals.

    Loaned to the V&A Museum by the Museum of London, the handmade couture gown truly showcases not only Dior's influence in Britain, but also his singular approach to design. This singular approach shines in all of the 200 gowns on display in Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams.


    Depth & Breadth

    In addition to showcasing the breadth of Dior's impact, the V&A exhibition highlights the incredible details that go into making such beautiful clothes by hand. A section devoted solely to Le Petit Mains, the little hands which literally piece the gowns together stitch by stitch, includes cotton prototypes (toiles). In addition, it features film and photographs depicting the couturiers at work.

    Dior perfumes, as well as other Dior accessories, also take pride of place among the lavishly decorated display rooms. In particular, Dior's premiere fragrance, Miss Dior, stands in its original 1947 Baccarat blue crystal bottle. Also, lipsticks, hats, jewelry, handbags, and shoes round out the brand's accessories displays.

    Another important room showcases the works of Dior's designers from 1947 to today. Each of Dior's designers followed the Dior Codes, including but not limited to the signature use of the color red, the Bar Suit, flower motifs, and the ideals of femininity, beauty, and fantasy. Yet, each also brought their own flair, their own individuality and style to further the overall success of the brand.

    Today, Maria Grazia Chiuri holds the distinguished title of head designer. Before her came Raf Simons, John Galliano, Gianfranco Ferré, Marc Bohan, and Yves Saint Laurent. Each has a handful of gowns specifically chosen for the 'Designers for Dior' room.

    Gardens & Ballrooms

    I want to mention to more rooms, The Garden Room and The Ballroom. The Garden Room offers a whimsical stroll through a summer garden lush with wisteria blossoms. A nice bench welcomes a leisurely look at the beautiful garden-inspired Dior gowns.

    The Ballroom features 70 years of stunning formal gowns, many of them worn on the red carpet. In particular, the gorgeous gown worn by Charlize Theron in the J'Adore campaign of 2008. Also, the flowing petal-strewn dress worn by Elle Fanning at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Finally, one last beautiful gown to mention, the architectural gown with a feathered skirt worn by Lupita Nyong'o at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

    All eleven of the rooms in the Christian Dior exhibit at the V&A are truly enchanting, inspiring, and breathtaking. I encourage you to visit their website to plan your visit.

    This link offers a stunning sneak peek to whet your appetite. Don't be alarmed when you see "sold out" under the marquee.

    In small print in the sidebar, I read the following: "Extra tickets will be released monthly around the 15th. Very limited tickets are available to purchase daily at 10am from the Grand Entrance on a first-come, first-served basis; these tickets are for times throughout the day on that day only."

  • 'Jeweled Isle' Exhibition at LA County Museum of Art (LACMA)

    Photo of Kandyan Chief of the Jeweled Isle Scowen & Co., Kandyan Chief, c. 1870, albumen silver print. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, digital image © Museum Associates/LACMA


    On view through June 23rd, The Jeweled Isle exhibition features over 240 works of Sri Lankan art. Serving as a visual encyclopedic presentation, The Jeweled Isle highlights art works from Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The time frame spans over the past two millennia.


    Sri Lanka - The Jeweled Isle

    Greek Mariners, traveling by ship in the 4th century BCE, nearly put Sri Lanka on the map. To the East Indians, Sri Lanka became Ratnadvipa ("Island of Gems"). Sailing through the waters of the Indian Ocean, the Greeks followed these legends of jewels.

    Eventually, the land of many names became Ceylon, adopted by the British from their Dutch cousins, who called the land Zeilan. In 1972, the country adopted its current name, Sri Lanka.

    A teardrop of an island nestled in the Indian Ocean, the promise of jeweled treasures continued its siren's call. Many heeded the call. Those who came not only found beautiful gemstones, but also fell head over heels in love with the island. Its turquoise waters, stunning coral reefs, coconut and mangrove trees, and the lush abundance of other fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.

    Though heavily influenced by those coming to trade with (and take) from them, Sri Lankans continued to hold fast and true to their Buddhist tradition. Over the course of 2,000 years, Sri Lankans came into their own.

    They established their unique approach to gem commerce and art. Today, visitors to LACMA have the opportunity to observe the continuity of Sri Lankan traditions. A story told through hundreds of works of art in their Jeweled Isle exhibition.


    The Opening Gallery

    At the foundation of this exhibit are 42 works from LACMA's South and Southeast Asian department. Added to this are another 200+ borrowed pieces, including photographs, textiles, furnishings, sculptures. They also borrowed 21 unmounted gemstones from the Natural History Museum.

    The Jeweled Isle exhibit opens with these 21 gemstones displayed in a glass case. They represent the types of gemstones mined in Sri Lanka from ages past until now. These include, but are not limited to, sapphire, ruby, chrysoberyl, alexandrite, topaz, citrine, moonstone, and amethyst. The most important of these gemstones remains blue sapphire.

    Additionally, this section of the exhibit includes sacred works. Though primarily a Buddhist nation, Sri Lanka maintains a long tradition of incorporating the religious narratives of their neighbors and fellow tradesmen. The 14 shrine panels on display epitomize this practice, with their depiction of many Hindu gods and demons.


    Three Important Time Periods

    Throughout the exhibition, the notion of jewels ranges from decorative objects made from ivory, gold, and silver, to the photographic record of Sri Lanka's monuments, geography, feasts and festivals, royalty, and more. Passing beyond the masks and vessels used in religious rituals and festivals, the remainder of the exhibition centers on three distinct time periods.

    First of all, the 3rd century BC to the 10th century AD, when Buddhism came to Sri Lanka. Second, the 11th through the 13th centuries, demonstrated by works that demonstrate the inclusion of Hinduism into Sri Lankan Buddhism. Finally, the 15th through 19th centuries. During this time, the Dutch, Portuguese, and British influenced Sri Lankan art through trade and imperialism.

    In the final gallery, a contemporary Buddhist work sits across from a similar work from the 18th century, which features a 3-foot long reclining Buddha. Conceptualized and made by Lewis DeSoto, the modern piece, "Paranirvana (Self-Portrait)" stretches across 26 feet of floor space. Fashioned from painted black cloth, the statue remains inflated during museum hours thanks to an industrial fan.

    Serving as a visual statement to the impact of the Buddha's influence, the piece was inspired by a 12th century stone carving. This inspirational reclining Buddha resides at Gal Vihara in Polonnaruwa. On the walls of this gallery also hang photographs of mid-century life in Sri Lanka. These were taken after they gained their independence in 1948.

    Taken by Reg van Cuylenberg, a Sri Lankan photographer, these images catalog his tours across the island in 1949 and 1958. His love for his country and his images of festivals, local life, and landmarks important to him and his people provide the perfect conclusion to this exciting exhibition.

    To plan your visit, I invite you to visit LACMA'S website.

    ~by Angela Magnotti Andrews

  • 'Boston Made' Exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

    Boston Made - Arts & Crafts necklace by Frank Gardner Hale A gold, green garnet, sapphire and opal necklace by Frank Gardner Hale, displayed in "Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork" at the Museum of Fine Arts. Photo courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


    Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork remains on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) through March 29, 2020. The MFA proudly honors the artists who reignited artisanry in Boston during the early decades of the 20th century.

    While The Arts & Crafts movement began in England, the philosophies and practices spread across the Atlantic. Boston, with the support of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, became a hub for both men and women to grow into skilled artists in the style.


    Boston Made

    As the museum's first ever exhibition solely dedicated to the Arts & Crafts movement, Boston Made showcases over 70 objects. These objects, which include jewelry, design drawings, decorative accessories, and tableware, tell the story of Boston's contribution to the Arts & Crafts movement.

    As a strong proponent for the arts since its inception in 1907, the MFA continues to highlight prominent Boston artists. The idea for this exhibition began with the recent acquisition of Frank Gardner Hale's design drawings.

    Acquired in 2014, the Boston artist's drawings complement nicely his jewelry already owned by the museum. In addition, it renewed attention to multiple other Arts & Crafts artists whose pieces the museum had collected over the years.

    Specifically, in 1913, the MFA obtained a gold and pearl brooch, as well as a gold, emerald, and pearl ring. Made by Josephine Hartwell Shaw, these jewels established her as the first contemporary female maker represented in the museum.

    Along with Shaw and Hale, the exhibit highlights the works of 11 other jewelers and metalsmiths in the Arts & Crafts period. The exhibition invites visitors to understand more deeply the philosophical and design principles of the movement.


    The Arts & Crafts Movement

    The movement began in England in the late 1880s, simultaneous to the Art Nouveau movement. Influenced by the writings and social criticism of John Ruskin, William Morris inspired a moral aesthetic. He founded it on the moral principles of appreciation of beauty, the importance of artistic endeavor, and the dignity of physical labor.

    Promoted primarily through the operation of schools of design and guilds for craftsmen, the Arts & Crafts movement promoted equal-access for men and women. Followers of this movement rejected mechanized assembly and design. Instead, they drew inspiration from the quieter guild lifestyles of the preindustrial ages.

    In the arts, emphasis centered on unified design principles, meticulous craftsmanship, and material choices based on beauty rather than raw value. Most importantly, artisans were encouraged to find deep pleasure and joy in their work.


    The Boston Look

    The cultural and design principles of this movement fit perfectly with the progressive intellectual community already established in Boston in the early 20th century. For 30 years, the Boston arts community embraced a return to pre-industrial ideals. Adding to these a commitment to aesthetic design, communal artistry, as well as artistic equality among men and women.

    In particular, Boston emerged as an influential leader for the movement in the U.S. Specifically, Boston impacted the jewelry and metalworking communities. Eventually, a unique aesthetic emerged.

    Called The Boston Look, this aesthetic remained true to the principles of the movement. At the same time, it expressed the unique flair of Boston's artists. The Boston Look features bold color combinations through the use of precious and semi-precious gemstones and enamels. It also features a glitzy glamour which draws upon historical styles and includes an abundance of foliate motifs.

    We invite you to immerse yourself in The Boston Look, the stories of the incredible artistic pioneers of the US's Arts & Crafts Movement, and the exemplary craftsmanship of some of Boston's finest jewelry and metal artists.

    Boston Made remains on view at the MFA through March 29. The museum is open 7 days a week. To plan your trip, please visit the museum's website.

  • The Empress of Uruguay - A Legendary Amethyst


    Found in northern Uruguay, the Empress of Uruguay stands nearly 11 feet tall. Comprised of an outer rim of granitic rock, the cavernous inside is filled with deep purple crystal amethysts.


    Crystal Caves

    This gorgeous display of nature's artistry holds the distinction of being the largest amethyst geode in the world. When first discovered in the Artigas mine, the geode was immediately offered for sale to René and Nelleke Boissevain.

    The Boissevains continue to maintain an active relationship with the mines in Uruguay, as they add to their collections at Crystal Caves in Australia.

    As they proclaim on their website, "The Crystal Caves will rock your world!"

    In 1987, founder René Boissevain built the first chamber of crystals all by himself in the beautiful Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, Australia. In 1992, he hired a team to help him expand the cave to include grottos, tunnels, crawl spaces, and more chambers.

    At the Crystal Caves, visitors walk, crawl, and gape through the five chambers filled with over 600 mineral and fossil specimens collected over the past several decades. Staff encourage their guests to touch, explore, and take lots and lots of photos.

    Visitors can even crack open their own Mexican coconuts, ancient geodes which formed 44 million years ago during a volcanic eruption in Chihuahua. Geode crackers use special tools supplied by staff to discover wondrous crystal formations within. It's anybody's guess what type of crystal drusy will emerge.


    The Empress of Uruguay

    So many important and wondrous specimens grace the Crystal Caves. However, the most famous is the Empress of Uruguay. René Boissevain purchased it in 2007 for $75,000. It took three months for miners to extract the geode from the solid basalt it called home for some 130 million years.

    René then paid $25,000 to ship it (carefully) from Uruguay to Queensland. It arrived completely intact, at which time two large cranes lowered the Empress into her permanent home in the caves.

    For the next two months, René and his staff carefully removed a portion of the face to reveal the gorgeous crystals within. They also carefully smoothed any rough edges and applied a black polish to the backside (most likely to reduce light filtration through the crystal).

    Today she is the main attraction of the Crystal Caves Museum. As with all the displays, visitors are encouraged to touch her tens of thousands of gem-quality, deep purple amethyst crystals.

    Even after touching her, the Empress of Uruguay defies belief. She weighs 5,500 pounds, slightly larger than a grown elephant. Visitors can view the Empress almost any day of the year. The Crystal Caves are open daily, with the exception of New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.

    Staff encourage visitors to allow at least an hour to fully experience the caves. For more information, I invite you to visit their website.

  • The Enchanted Cave - A Legendary Amethyst


    The Enchanted Cave is the largest amethyst cave in the world. In detail, it measures approximately 18 feet wide and weighs over 44,000 pounds. Visitors to Crystal Castle in Australia have the unique opportunity to enter this cave and even to sit for a guided meditation.


    The Enchanted Cave Experience

    Crystal Castle owner Naren King purchased the Enchanted Cave from an Uruguayan farmer as a gift to the castle on its 30th anniversary. At first, the Cave began as a giant bubble within an ancient lava flow. When allowed to cool, it formed into a massive geode which revealed itself in good time to the farmer.

    When the gigantic amethyst arrived at Brisbane port, several teams worked to deliver it safely from its shipping container. Naren told Verandah Magazine that the project took "an epic 7 hours of unloading." The task required the help of teams from Universal Cranes, Cargo Network International, and Interport to transport it from the port to its permanent home at Crystal Castle. (source)

    Because of Naren's determination and persistence, you can sit in the Enchanted Cave fashioned within the earth over 120 million years ago. A guide will help you find your center, as you sit in silence. Your heart will resonate with the grounding energy in the bosom of the world's largest amethyst cave.

    As you awaken to your inner world, your exploration of earth's mysteries continues as you prepare to experience the rest of Crystal Castle.


    Crystal Castle

    The Enchanted Cave is truly a microcosm of the entire Crystal Castle & Shambhala Gardens experience. As you walk the sacred paths through the gardens, crystal surprises emerge around every corner.

    The Crystal Guardians, the two tallest geodes in the world, stand sentinel to a path of lush rainforest foliage. Composed of smoky quartz with smatterings of amethyst and calcite, these stunning monoliths stand at over 18 feet tall.

    A rose quartz spiral invites contemplation, while Rosie stands apart welcoming visitors to touch and take photos. Rosie is a single solid rose quartz crystal weighing 8,000 pounds. The guide book describes Rosie as a mini-mountain that stands at the entrance to the Reflexology Path.

    Scattered throughout the grounds, rose quartz crystals make perfect seats for small children or adults needing a contemplative rest. The blending of subtropical plant life with nature's perfect gemstones ensures a sublime and awe-inspiring experience for all visitors.

    To book your visit, I invite you to visit the Crystal Castle website for all the details.

  • Guo Pei Jewel of Fashion

    Guo Pei One Thousand and Two Nights, 2010. Guo Pei, One Thousand and Two Nights, 2010. Silk gown embellished with gemstones, pearls, crystals, beads, and sequins. Photo courtesy of SCAD/Vancouver Art Gallery.


    Inspired by the red carpet fashion of the Oscars, I offer a deeper look at the inspiring fashion designer Guo Pei. Though the show has ended, Guo Pei recently held her first North American exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery.


    In the Beginning

    To begin with, Guo Pei learned to sew at an astonishing age. From age of 2, she worked alongside her mother, sewing the family's clothing for the winter. As she grew, so did her love for making clothes, especially dresses.

    Not surprisingly, in 1970s China, the go-to fashion consisted primarily of Mao suits. In defiance of such limitations, Guo Pei wore loose-fitting dresses. She recalls her father tossing her paintings and sketches in the trash. Fearing, as many fathers do, that her passion would render her poverty-stricken, he encouraged her to pursue a real job.

    Pressing on with her passion, she proved him wrong and has earned his devoted support. In 2015, she earned a place at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, a solo show! That same year, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture inducted her as a member.

    The Chambre serves as the chief governing body of Paris's haute couture industry, granting her a spot on their annual Fashion Week calendar. After making her debut on the Paris runway in 2016, TIME Magazine named her one of their 100 Most Influential People, as well as one of the Business of Fashion's 500 Most Influential People.


    The Guo Pei Philosophy

    The Chinese artist continues to walk her own path, designing dresses that incorporate the magic of Chinese mythology, the splendor of the Qing Empire, and the traditions of Chinese painters, embroiderers, and artisans.

    Guo Pei infuses every creation with an artistic passion. She aims to seamlessly blend Chinese tradition with western modernity. Guo Pei draws inspiration from fairy tales and legends, and most surprisingly, military history.

    She reveres the body as a blank canvas, waiting to tell the story of creation. Each garment begins when her imagination sparks to life. She paints in material and thread, telling a story of romance, beauty, and sometimes courage.

    China's preeminent contemporary fashion designer continues to stand apart, separating herself from competition and trends. Her art arises from within, a wellspring of creation waiting to emerge for every occasion.

    ~by Angela Magnotti Andrews

  • "Jewelry: The Body Transformed" at The Met

    Jewelry: the Body Transformed Jewelry: The Body Transformed, featuring Yashmak by Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen. Photo: The Met.


    For four more days, The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibits Jewelry: The Body Transformed. This exhibition aims to encourage a more enlightened view of jewelry based on the universal uses of jewelry from ages past to now.


    The Body Transformed

    Jewelry: The Body Transformed includes a selection of over 230 objects of adornment spanning four millennia. Of course, jewels comprise the majority of these objects, including earrings, headdresses, necklaces, tiaras, and rings. The remaining objects include sculptures, photographs, paintings, and other accessories.

    Most of the items on display belong to The Met's encyclopedic collection, many of them rarely seen by the public. Melanie Holcomb, one of the curators for The Body Transformed, expressed, "We are inclined to understand jewelry as a superficial pleasure. She hopes visitors leave "seeing that adorning oneself is one of the most profound acts we engage in.” (source)

    The exhibition chiefly demonstrates the way jewelry accompanies nearly every critical human milestone, including birth, marriage, and death. Historically, jewelry symbolized power, dominion, domination, and the spoils of war. Balanced against the masculinity, jewelry also symbolizes beauty, femininity, individuality, and even sometimes conformity.

    The Body Transformed highlights the longevity of jewelry as an art form. Indeed, it represents "the world's oldest art form, predating cave paintings by tens of thousands of years," says the exhibit's curators. (source)


    The Body as Canvas

    In particular, I find that the most compelling aspect of The Body Transformed is this notion of the body as a canvas for artists. Indeed, the show begins with an exploration of head-to-toe jewelry for the body.

    Reviewer Brian T. Allen describes jewelry as "the unique unity of body and art, the body a moving canvas to which the best jewelers, great artists and designers, respond." (source)

    To begin with, several glass columns stand in a grid-like formation in the first gallery. As described in Vogue, the columns serve as jeweled forms that showcase the different forms of jewelry for different areas of the body.

    For example, a pair of golden grave shoes rest at the base of one. From there, a pair of metal shin guards from the 1530s might meet at waist height a belt made by Elsa Schiaparelli in 1933, and on up to the ears and neck with jewels from different times and places. (source)

    These eclectically adorned statues especially demonstrate the intriguing continuity in jewelry form and materials. At the same, they highlight the distinctive styles and flairs of each period.

    In four more sections, The Body Transformed takes visitors on an almost surrealistic journey into the heart of personal adornment practices.

    Not surprisingly, most of the offerings fit what you expect to find in a museum. Egyptian funereal adornments, Medieval religious icons, noble and royal jewels from various nations, and selections from 20th and 21st century luxury jewelry designers.

    However, in contrast, some of the jewels demand more from the viewer.



    Arguably, the most compelling work is Yashmak (pictured above). Shaun Leane create the piece for Alexander McQueen for his 1999 runway show. Fashioned from a multitude of hammered aluminum plates, each is centered with a blood red Swarovski crystal.

    Specifically made for wear on the runway, the face piece includes open eye sockets. Of course, Leane embellished them with blood red crystal eyelashes.

    Leane patterned this metal veil after the yashmuk worn by Turkish Muslim women to conceal their faces in public. The artist expressed that the conception for Yashmak arose from the notion of “jewelry covering the body to create this formidable structure." (source)

    Leane's other works on display continue to explore the crossroads between art and culture, beauty and pain, as well as ravishing menace. These include a jaw piece and a crown of thorns. (source)


    The Jealous Husband

    To further illustrate these crossroads, The Body Transformed also features somewhat discordant works by Simon Costin and Alexander Calder. The first, Simon Costin's Incubus necklace, purportedly provoked controversy when first display in 1987. (source)

    The necklace frame consists of swirling, twisted wires of silver and copper. Perched upon this wire nest are five glass ampoules of golden fluids, Costin's semen.

    Not quite as jarring, Calder's necklace The Jealous Husband appears to snap onto the shoulders of the wearer. Calder fashioned this twisting sculptural necklace from brass. In 2008, The Wall Street Journal described it as a "...a form of forbidding body armor, complete with long spikes shooting straight up from the shoulders...[a] whimsical chastity belt..." (source)

    To be sure, this fascinating show offers endless intrigue. Visitors will enjoy the many juxtapositions, the comparisons, and the unique displays offered by six talented curators. They will also enjoy the jewels!

    Again, this show has only four days remaining. If you're in New York this weekend, I highly recommend visiting The Met's website to plan your visit.

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