Jewelry Making Is a Way of Life

Dining With Duvall by Lynn Duvall

My best friend, Judie, used to be a jewelry designer.

She no longer makes her own jewelry. These days Judie haunts gem shows for unique artisan pieces and fine gemstones.

A few months ago I was tagging along behind Judie as she combed the aisles of a gem show at the Pasadena Convention Center. We usually go to Santa Monica, where it's horribly crowded and steamy hot, inside giant white tents. For once, I was not crammed in with hordes of shoppers, dying of the heat. I began to look more closely at the rivers, lakes and oceans of beads.

If you have never been to a gem show, you cannot comprehend the sheer volume of beads displayed. I find it overwhelming. In Pasadena, smaller quantities made browsing easier.

I said to Judie, "I wonder where they have jewelry making classes? These beads are so beautiful. I could make earrings, if I knew how to wrap the wire and attach the fittings."

Judie nodded as I recalled that I hate classes of any kind. I have no patience, no eye-hand coordination. The jewelry class idea went out the window. I bought a pretty pair of ready-made earrings, but I was still twitching, wishing I could make something for myself.

The very next day I received an e-mail from thetipjar.com announcing a new concept: jewelry-making parties. A new company called Luxe Jewels has set up a website offering consultants and jewelry kits. You can invite your friends over to make jewelry. Hey, did someone say party? Yes, this was more like it.

As a private person, I have never invited myself to a party, but as a journalist, I have no shame. I wrote to Luxe immediately. A short time later, I found myself knocking on the door of a stately 1926 manse in Silver Lake, presenting myself to our hostess, Veronica Scholl.

Veronica graciously introduced me to her friends. She'd gathered a group of six women of all ages and backgrounds for the party. Most of them knew each other through work.

Karen Tsia, from Sierra Madre, told me, "I came because this is a chance to see Veronica. I don't wear jewelry, but it sounded fun."

I accepted a glass of excellent white wine and tasted the treats. A selection of gourmet cheeses and crackers, fresh shrimp, dips and spreads, grapes and prosciutto-wrapped melon were attractively presented and perfectly balanced.

We took our places at the lovely old, polished dining room table and turned our attention to the Luxe consultant, Sharon Weinfeld. She talked for three minutes about the company and gestured to a collection of jewelry she'd made from the Luxe kits. They were for sale. That was the end of sales talk. "This sure beats Tupperware or Mary Kay," I thought.

For the next couple hours, the girls worked on their jewelry, laughed and chatted together. Three had chosen to start with intermediate-level kits, which I thought, brave, but foolhardy. They were smart gals though - their pieces turned out perfectly.

Sharon, our consultant, brought tools, mostly pliers with different noses, and demonstrated their use. She also provided cheap practice wire, so that the delicate silver wires included in the kits would not be damaged by a first-timer. The jewelry kits had been previewed, selected and purchased online by the guests before the party. Sharon brought the kits.

I enjoyed watching Gina Yoo make a necklace. Gina graduated from La Cañada High School in 1995. She lives in town with her parents Michelle, a realtor, and Young, a retired engineer, and her brother, Scott, who attends Loyola High School. Gina is an architect with a Pasadena firm, where she met her fiancé, Stephen Wen, also an architect. The couple is planning a February wedding.

Later I complimented Sharon on her preparation and teaching style. The kits come with very clear directions, but I think jewelry making compares to cooking. If you're a beginner, it is easier to learn technique by watching an expert, like mom, letting her guide you the first time. Sharon gave the girls many tips and corrected minor mistakes.

Sharon used to be the marketing director for a non-profit institution, but wanted to indulge her love for jewelry making. She's enjoying her new career with Luxe because it allows her to help others discover their creative talents.

"Even people who don't think they have a creative bone in their body are amazed to learn that they can make something beautiful and have fun at the same time," Sharon explained.

The online jewelry photos do not capture the true beauty of the finished pieces. The gems are crystals, semi-precious stones and pearls. It's not cheap costume jewelry, but the prices of the kits are surprisingly low, starting at $15, averaging $35 to $40. There are special kits for bridal parties, too. What a fun idea for a bachelorette party.

To plan your own party, call Sharon at 714-356-4157 or e-mail cooljewels@adelphia.net.

Baguette Crisps

From "Celebration 101" by Rick Rogers

Homemade baguette crisps are great for dips or cheese. The crunchy toasted bread slices should be stored in a brown paper bag to maintain crispness. Can be made up to 8 hours ahead of your party.

1. For garlic-flavored crisps, heat 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil and 2 large garlic cloves, crushed under a knife, in a small saucepan until small bubbles appear around the edges.

2. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Strain the oil, discarding the garlic.

4. Slice a long, thin baguette into 1/4-inch thick slices and place the slices in a large bowl.

5. Drizzle the oil over the slices, tossing them well.

6. Spread the slices on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool. For plain crisps, delete the garlic.

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