David Bowie And The Substance Of Style

By Bob Werber David Bowie, who passed away this week at the age of 69, was routinely called an “icon” of fashion and style. In that, he joins a long list of musicians who helped redefine the "look" of an era. But Bowie understood the meaning and function of style far better even than most in the fashion industry. He saw how each of us, from the flamboyant entertainer to the buttoned-down banker, dresses not just to look good but to show the world something about our inner selves. Everyday life is abundantly theatrical. Even adorned so outrageously that you might be a little scared to see him coming down your street (a particularly wild outfit once prompted a sidewalk passerby to pull a gun on him), you always saw a little of yourself in him. “I’m working class” he told a BBC interviewer in 1999, even though he was by then a...

Birthstones And The Strange Beliefs Around Them

By Bob Werber Adding a birthstone is a great way to personalize a ring, pendant or other piece of jewelry, whether you’re buying for yourself, your love or a good friend. Besides looking great, birthstones carry all kinds of ancient beliefs, and a few superstitions, about how they can affect your happiness, wealth and health. The history of birthstones is long and complex. Historians have connected them to stones on the breastplate of Aaron, high priest of the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, to the Christian foundation of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelations and to the Gregorian Calendar, which has poems that match each month of the year to a birthstone. Of course, modern jewelry salesmanship plays a part in the story. The birthstone list we generally use today in the U.S. was put together at a meeting of the National...

Alternatives To Traditional Diamond Engagement Rings

All of a sudden, everyone’s talking about making a different choice when it comes to an engagement ring. And that’s not good news for diamond marketers whose products have, for years, been the automatic choice for lovers about to tie the knot. If you’re a guy about to propose to your lady love, will you look like a schnook if you offer her an engagement ring without the sparkle of a diamond? It may depend on how much importance your girl places on tradition -- or how much she discounts marketing messages. One of the main reasons women have always expected diamonds is that mega-diamond merchant De Beers has spent millions over many years on ad programs proclaiming that diamonds are “a mark of achievement” for a man and that “diamonds are forever.” It may not be worth dropping several months of your salary on a diamond if your girl...

One Famous Irish Matchmaker Still Plies His Trade

In 2009 I was staying with my wife and two young sons at a lovely B&B in Liscannor, Co. Clare. When we asked our innkeeper where to go for a horse trek, she directed us to the horse farm of one Willie Daly in nearby Ennistymon. “He’s also a famed matchmaker” she added. “Matchmaker?” We weren’t too sure what that meant in the modern world. Focused on having a ride, we located Mr. Daly’s horse farm in it’s secluded rural location, and found him to be a very amiable, quietly eccentric sort of fellow. I remember him wearing a horse riding helmet, cocked oddly to one side, as a way of showing us the importance of wearing protective headgear. Our lazy horse trek through the surrounding area was a pure delight. A Big ReputationWe never asked about matchmaking, but in the years since then I’ve realized that Mr. Daly enjoys an outsized...

Grace O’Malley, The Pirate Queen, Lives On

If you believe in girl power, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more exciting icon that Grace O’Malley, or Gráinne Ní Mháille in Irish (she’s somtimes called “La Granuaile”). Born in 1530, she was a shrewd, educated women who successfully managed both shipping and land ownership businesses she inherited — becoming quite wealthy in the process — and gained a reputation as one of the greatest pirates in history. O’Malley might not be happy to be labelled as a pirate. She’s known as such because after Galway City decided to collect a tax from any ships passing the city, she decided to collect a similar tax from any ships passing by her waterfront property. She had over 200 sailors under her command, and her enforcement methods were unforgiving. Ship masters refusing to pay her tax were often subjected to violence or murder....

Russborough House – Waiting For The Next Art Robbery?

Russborough House is a Palladian mansion nestled beside Blessington Lakes in County Wicklow. Built in the mid-1700’s, it’s reputed to be the largest house in Ireland. It’s provenance is certainly interesting. The family of the original owner - the Earl of Milltown - held ownership the stately home from 1755 all the way up to 1931. Then, after changing owners a few times, it was bought by Alfred Biet in 1952. Big Time ArtAlfred Beit had a truly spectacular art collection. Goyas, Vermeers, Rubens, Gansboroughs and others form a “who’s who” of old masters in the house. But Russborough is a troubled institution. It’s recent history includes four massive art robberies that took place between 1974 and 2002. On all four occasions, it seems that security in the stately but isolated mansion were somewhat lax, allowing burglars to take...

Some Great Celtic Music – Enjoy!

Here's come gorgeous Celtic music to start your day. This performance of "Hi Gradh Ho Gradh" (He Dear, Ho Dear in Scottish) is from the fantastic "Transatlantic Sessions" series that has been done by the BBC for several years. You can find lots of great episodes on YouTube (we've listed a few below). Enjoy Julie Fowlis, a favorite Scottish singer of ours, with Americans Mary Chapin Carpenter and Aoife O'Donovan (a wonderful singer from Massachusetts who recently gained attention singing with Yo-Yo Ma in Goat Rodeo). Other favorites on YouTube from Transatlantic Sessions: "Down By The Salley Gardens," Maura O'Connell with Karen Matheson "Streets Of Derry," Cara Dillon and Paul Brady "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive," Darrell...

Three Irish Jewelry Makers You Should Know About

If you're looking for a great piece of authentic jewelry from Ireland, here are three top Irish jewelry brands you should know about. ShanOre ShanOre is a family owned jewelry producer that’s been making all sorts of amazing bracelets, earrings and – perhaps most famously – engagement and wedding rings since 1979. They make some of the most elegant, high end pieces we’ve seen in a Celtic style. All pieces are designed and hallmarked in Ireland. More ShanOre Pieces in our Irish Celtic Jewels shop here. Fado Fado, based in County Wicklow, does exquisite pieces that re-invent and reinterpret the most classic Irish symbols. Their Claddagh and Celtic Knot rings are some of the best we’ve seen. John Conlin, the creative force behind Fado, is one of the nicest people we’ve met in the industry, and he enjoys a great reputation for...

Be Careful When Buying Major Jewelry Brands

Competition in the jewelry business has pushed even some large retailers to play a bit fast and loose with the brand names on what they’re selling. If you’re buying brand-name jewelry, you want to make sure you ask questions and make sure you’re getting what you actually want. Witness the case of Costco. A judge has just ruled that the large retailer labeled pieces as Tiffany that weren’t really from the famous jeweler, in a way the confused consumers. It’s an example of how a brand identity can get confusing at the retail level. This particular case involves Costco labeling certain rings as having a “Tiffany setting,” something that, in truth, is often used generically to describe a ring design rather than a piece actually made by Tiffany. But New York federal judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled that Costco went further, showing...