Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lariats & Tassels, from Ancient Macedonia to Today’s Fashion Icons

Heirloom Finds model and tassel necklace

One of today’s hottest accessory trends owes its origins to the domestication of horses. In jewelry terms, a lariat is a long, open-ended necklace that has no clasp. But historically, a lariat is a lasso used to catch or lead livestock. Like ropes themselves, decorative lariats have been around for millennia. One of the most iconic examples of a lariat is a golden snake dating back to the Macedonian and Ptolemaic period (332–30 B.C.), which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.

Heirloom Finds Lariat Necklace

Some lariats are thick and coiled, while other are loose and flowing. The latter, with their light, breezy attitude and fluid movement, are ideal for summer. And lariats that incorporate a pendant with delicate beaded or chain fringe echo the tassels we’ve been seeing all over the place this year, from couture to street wear (and even home décor.) The lariats and tassels in our newest collection run the gamut, offering something for everyone.

One of the most recognizable tassels-wearers might be Mad Men’s Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks. In the show’s first few seasons, Joan never appears at the offices of Sterling Cooper without her gold pen pendant. Much later in the series, as Joan engineers her way out of her secretary role, we see Joan at a party decked out in a stunning red satin dress, flaunting layers of topaz-hued rhinestones and gold-tone rope chains with a tasseled pendant—the jewelry of a powerful woman who wants to call the shots. She wears a more understated but equally striking tasseled pendant to work in Season 6.

Joan’s look is very structured and composed, just as Joan’s demeanor is on the show. But long, slender, and funky lariats speak to the casual boho look. Chain lariats with faceted beads evoke more of a Jazz Age scene, as do strands with tassels and crystals. Flappers loved luxe, long lariats with gemstones or rhinestones and frosty white pearls.

Heirloom Finds Tassel Necklace

Contemporary boho style, with its tassels and airy layering, owes a debt to the young, willowy rockers and groupies who frolicked with musicians and celebrities on the Sunset Strip during the late 60s and early 70s. Plundering thrift shops and vintage stores, they resurrected feminine floral dresses from the 30s and 40s and mixed them with lace, velvet, baubles, and layers upon layers of fringe. (For a fun and dishy read, nab Pamela Des Barres’s I’m With The Band: Confessions of a Groupie. It’s surprisingly uplifting, and will fill you in on this time of unbridled L.A. hippy glam.) While more eclectic than flappers of the 20s, the two styles share an affinity with their liberated, live-in-the-moment approach to fashion and passion.

So whether they’re precious metal that’s thousands of years old or brand-spankin’-new fringed leather accented with rustically hewn stones, lariats and tassels personalize any outfit. Some are crisp and elegant; others are relaxed and casual, but there’s at least one that’s just right for you.

Check out our Pinterest board to see these and more tassely looks.

 By Sara Bir


Anchors Aweigh: The Nautical Look, from Preppies to Bohos

Stripes, anchors, knots, chains. Maybe a beret or a pair of pedal pushers. Throw in some sun and sand and what do you have? An iconic style that’s chic but casual, timeless but cutting-edge.

You may think we owe the nautical look to J. Crew and Land’s End catalogs, but really, we owe it to the French. The French Navy, to be specific.

Nautical Preppy Blue Striped Button Anchor Stud Earrings

The look became known as the Breton stripe, because the northern coastal region of Brittany was home to a major navy base. Today’s French Navy still uses stripes in some of their uniforms. In 1917, designer Coco Chanel adapted the Breton stripe for her collection. The rest, as they say, is history.In 1858, the French Navy introduced white-and-navy stripes for sailors’ uniforms. The idea was that the stripes made men overboard more visible in the waves. Each of the uniforms’ 21 stripes stood for one of Napoleon’s victories over the British.

Thanks to the Beat movement of the 1950s and the French Nouvelle Vague film movement of the 1960s, Breton stripes have had a long association with the bohemian lifestyle. But there’s also its social opposite, the preppy look, which embraces nautical stripes whole-heartedly. See—stripes are for everyone!  If your name isn’t Biff or Buffy, and if your last name isn’t hyphenated, don’t worry. You can still pull off the nautical look. Consider these famous wearers of the Breton stripe: Andy Warhol, Kim Gordon, Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, and Duchess Kate. And, of course, Waldo.

The key to pulling off stripes is balance, as well as a strong sense of who you are. If you are into bold statements, go ahead and rock the black-and-white. White with navy or red retains more of that East Coast, preppy air.

Let’s say horizontal stripes are your body shape’s worst nightmare. No worries! You can incorporate bold, stripey accents with scarves or shoes. Or restrict stripes to your canvas Why Nautical Anchor Pendant Necklacetote bag. Because of its emphasis on red, white, and blue, the nautical look is also a terrific way to don festive attire for the Fourth of July without looking like a total cheeseball.

And stripes aren’t the only way to evoke white sand and marine waters. Jewelry accented with anchors is classic and stylish, evoking the anchor motif stamped on many vintage Navy uniform buttons. Love knots bring to mind the rigging on a boat, and chains are a natural pairing with anchors.

So relax. There’s no other look that encompasses drunken sailors, Brigitte Bardot, and Maggie Shipstead’s novel Seating Arrangements. The nautical look has been with us for nearly a century, and it’s posed to last at least another 100 years.

 By Sara Bir

Photo by Ktoine


Traveler’s Tips for Trips: Picking and Packing Jewelry

Your vacation is approaching. Yay!

You have to pack for it. Ugh.

Packing for a trip always takes longer than I’d like it to, especially the jewelry, because I linger over which pieces to bring along. By the time I’m done, half of my jewelry box is in my suitcase.

Maybe that’s excessive, but consider this: jewelry takes up way less space than clothing. If the outfits you pack are basic and easy to accessorize, jewelry is a secret weapon to switch up your look from day to day. Packing a generous selection of jewelry allows you to be both a minimalist and a fashionista!

ziplock chain

The important thing is to keep your jewelry safe and organized. If you’re worried about baggage theft, either wear your valuables or leave them at home. If you’re packing pearls—or anything soft and easily scratched—don’t just throw them in a bag with faceted gemstones. Wrap them in a soft cloth or scarf for protection and tuck them into a small zip-top bag.

In fact, clear zip-top bags are a huge asset for traveling (the little bags we package your new Heirloom Finds in are worth hanging onto for this very reason). You can tuck a chain in a zip-top bag and leave the clasp end dangling out as you seal it to keep the chain tangle-free. Or, for larger items, cut drinking straws down to size, slip the chain through the straw, and then clasp the ends.

To keep studs in order, push the posts through a button or an index card and then attach the backs. Use paper clips to keep hoop-style earrings together.

Hoop earrings with paperclip

Our marketing and customer service guru Mallory travels with a hard plastic organizer, sucsoda strawh as the kind used to keep crafts or fishing tackle nice and tidy. Usually such boxes are clear, making it easy to find what you need at a glance. I pack my jewelry in a folksy handmade drawstring bag purchased at a craft show many years ago (but of course you can find one on Etsy). It has pockets on the sides for earrings, while chunky necklaces and bracelets fit in the center.

On travel day, if you’ll be going through airport security gates, avoid wearing any metal necklaces or bracelets—or even belts with big buckles—that you don’t want to scramble with before walking through the metal detector. I’ve never been asked to take off my earrings before, though. And rumor has it that walking through the middle of the detector’s arch makes setting it off less likely.

button earrings I

From now on, instead of spending unnecessary time agonizing about which pair of earrings to leave behind, I’m just going to bring them along. Unless you’re traveling ultra-light, it’s not about the jewelry. It’s about how smart you pack it.

By Sara Bir

Photo by MowT


Satin, Shine, and Sparkle: The Joys of Wedding Jewelry

Weddings can be incredibly elaborate or simple and austere. We’re fortunate to live in an age when most anything is acceptable, as long as it’s a reflection of who the wedding couple are as people. I’ve been a maid of honor twice: once, in a Romanesque-style church; the other, in a ramp patch on the forested grounds of a Buddhist retreat center. Both occasions were joyous and heartfelt, two perfect weddings for two very different couples.

wedding photo

Whether you’re a minimalist or a devotee of flourishes and baubles, the jewelry you select for your bridal ensemble is an easy way to put your own style stamp on your wedding day. Here are some basic strategies for bringing it all together.

  • If you plan on wearing a bracelet, make sure it won’t snag any lace or delicate fabric.
  • Does your wedding gown have a high neckline? Make a splash with great earrings, a brooch, or hair ornaments instead.
  • Switch up your look with jewelry to put on after the ceremony. A big, sparkly cuff or a glitzy necklace will reflect your celebratory mood at the reception. You can even infuse some unexpected color with bright jewels instead of white pearls or rhinestones.
  • A brooch can emphasize a sash or bow on your gown and add a personal touch.
  • Simple stud earrings won’t upstage a gown embellished with pearls, sequins, or beads.
  • Depending on the dresses you’ve selected for your bridesmaids, they may not need any accessories for the ceremony. But thoughtful gifts of tasteful bangles or necklaces for them to wear at the reception make festive additions.

deco dropsThe convention of European and American brides wearing white wedding dresses is relatively recent, originating in 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. In fact, white wedding dresses didn’t become the default until after World War II.

But pearls have long been associated with nuptials. The ancient Greeks associated pearls with marital bliss; centuries later, Jacqueline Bouvier wore a strand when she married the future president Kennedy. (Queen Victoria, however, opted for a giant sapphire).The connection between diamonds and engagement rings is much newer, dating back to the 1930, when sluggish sales of the most precious of gems prompted the cartel De Beers to make a big marketing push to promote diamond rings. In 1947, a copywriter for the ad agency N.W. Ayers dreamed up the line “A Diamond is Forever,” and the rest is history.

Modern or vintage, costume or precious, the jewelry you wear on your wedding day is an opportunity to express who you are. Have fun with it!

By Sara Bir

Photo by GU / 古天熱