Sunday, November 7, 2010

Precious Jewels Fit for a Queen

In my travels through life and especially through this design venture of mine, I am honored and privileged to meet amazingly talented women who not only inspire me but who share my own passion for what I do. Frances Russell (of Frances Russell Interiors), Dorothy Blum Cooper (photographer), Sandy Foster (of My Shabby Streamside Studio), Claudia Strasser (of The Paris Apartment), Hope Ava (of The French Mouse), and Anya Caliendo (of Anya Caliendo Atelier), are but a few of the talented women whom I've had the pleasure of meeting (there are many, many more and please forgive me if I missed you).

Most recently, and by way of blogging, I met Karen Sugarman (of Karen Sugarman Designs).

Karen contacted me as, unbeknowst to me until recently, has followed the progression of my antique design store from Etsy to 1stdibs (and soon to be at the New York Design Center!).
Well, come to learn, Karen is one of us talented women who has also had a career change mid-life.

Until just a couple of years ago, Karen was a successful interior designer on Boston's posh Newbury Street. There, Karen Sugarman was heralded for her spectacular use of color, proportion and attention to detail. These skills have now transitioned into her newest venture. . .jewelry design. After her family was transferred in 2004 from Boston to Arizona, the designer, who had previously specialized in classic interior design and historic renovation, had no historic properties to transform. With the plethora of “Arizona Tuscan” design in place, Karen decided not to add another log onto that fire.

When she was not working on projects for clients back in Boston, she decided to revise an old necklace in her jewelry armoire. The idea for a new necklace was inspired by the one she had brought back from Paris several years ago. “Although that one was lovely, I always felt it needed to be more bountiful and creative. My first prototype was a floral design. The lush bouquet format confirmed my idea and a completely new design was born. If interior design was my first love, beautiful jewelry was my second.”

When designing a necklace, for instance, Karen incorporates differing values of each colorway which allows for versatility in blending with many clothing options. Her works of art are infused with unique gemstones, pearls, vintage beads and Czech beads. The majority of her designs are constructed from either sterling silver or gold vermeil thus eliminating most jewelry allergies. Her jewelry creations look stunning with everything from blue jeans to ball gowns.

But of course, don't take my word for it. Below are some of her gorgeous collections and pieces which, I'm sure you will agree, are fit for royalty. Each of her collections are named after her inspiration for it. Probably my favorite (and I'm sure will be Frances Russell's too) is the Tuileries Collection.

As Karen writes, "The inspiration for the 'Tuileries Collection' is based in the rich history of France. When Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were banished from Versailles and forced to live in the Tuileries Palace as prisoners, the French queen gave a bag of grey pearls to the wife of the British ambassador, Lady Sutherland, for safekeeping. As an act of kindness, Lady Sutherland sent clothing and linens to the imprisoned and doomed queen. Marie Antoinette was executed in 1793. The pearls belonging to Marie Antoinette were eventually incorporated into a beautiful necklace for Lady Sutherland’s grandson’s wedding in 1849, and it has stayed in the Sutherland family for over 200 years. This historically significant necklace was recently featured in Christie’s auction in late 2007. The elegant architecture of this significant necklace has been reinterpreted for today’s modern woman. Using variations of stones and format, the overall design as it originated, is still a stunning and viable style."

The Prasiolite and Pearl Necklace

One can easily imagine the pretty but petulant Marie Antoinette strolling through the gardens of her grandiose estate in a sumptuous soft green silk dress with the shimmering glimmer of this magnificent necklace sitting daintily around her neck. Precious and plump 16mm prasiolite (green amethyst) faceted briolettes are joined by the diminutively faceted prasiolite rondelles to form the delicate structure of this necklace. The tiny freshwater seed pearls and generous Swarovski pearls lend an air of elegant drama when juxtaposed with the soft green of the prasiolite. Ideal for a beautiful bride and perfect as a future heirloom. The structure of this necklace is a modified version of the original Sutherland necklace but designed to appeal to a more modern look.

There is also Karen's grandiose and coastal Back Bay Collection. Among these, my favorite is the Peruvian Pink Parfait Opal Necklace.

This luscious necklace of Peruvian opal, cultured freshwater pearls and vintage pink beads is a sure bet to keep you “cool and chic”. A generous chunky texture and lovely focal point pendant allude to the Palm Beach life. This delectable confection looks great with something as simple as a tee shirt and jeans or alternately elegant when accessorizing a little black cocktail dress.

Or the Gigi Necklace - Gray Freshwater Pearls and Aquamarine Nuggets.

A soothing color palette of soft dove-gray freshwater pearls and petal pearls is juxtaposed with the soft powdery aqua of organic aquamarine nuggets. Although the “architecture” of the design is formal with it’s delicate frill of pearls and aquamarine briolettes, the earthy nature of the nuggets keeps the design from becoming too precious. An elegant presence, but not overwhelmingly dramatic - a wonderful and flattering spring/summer choice.

And for a more casual and everyday look, there is the sweet Les Roses de la Mer.

Five sweet little hand carved pink shell roses are strategically placed along an equally dainty gold-filled chain. This is they type of necklace that can go anywhere and is a perfect choice for sun and sand. Looks adorable with a bikini, t-shirt or a fun sundress. Or maybe even for a little girl......

I even love Karen's bracelet designs, like the Leila Bracelet – Amethyst, Pink Topaz, Rubellite Garnet and Pearls with Amethyst Stalactite Feature Bead -- which was featured in April 2009 issue of WGSN Magazine.

Karen is an ultra personable woman and artist. To inquire about any of the designs shown here (and even custom orders) you can contact her directly at Karen Sugarman Designs (480) 607-2711, or (480) 250-2652. Or feel free to drop her an email at
I'm sure she'd love to hear your comments.

Thank you, Karen, for allowing me to share your work and passion.


  1. Karina_

    Thank you so much for this wonderful and kind posting. I have so enjoyed your friendship, design thoughts, business mentoring and our odd connection of Louisiana - you are simply the best! I cannot wait to add your beautiful mirror to my fireplace renovation - I know it will stunning!

    I hope sometime when I am visiting my sister and family in Louisiana, I can make a detour to New Orleans for lunch with you!


  2. Oh Karina, I lived in Boston and know of Newbury street; I missed Karen Sugarman, but these designs are just fit for a queen....thank you for this treasure chest of jewels and artists...and isn't Frances just a darling queen herself? Have a splendid day, Anita

  3. Thanks for the mention, Karina, and for sharing Karen's very inspired and wearable designs!

    C'est ravissant!


    Sandy @ My Shabby Streamside Studio

  4. Hello Karina,
    Thank you for stopping by my blog. I actually know Karen Sugarman. She had a lovely shop in Andover, Ma which where I live. Her designs are great. I especially love The Prasiolite and Pearl Necklace.

  5. Karina, as are your words, your generosity and kindness are most appreciated and more precious than any gem stone. From the bottom of our hearts...we thank you for sharing your talent, time, expert designers eye and above all, your friendship.

    Dorothy & Bobby-


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