Overcoming obstacles. Persevering through dark times. Leaning on those you love to hold you up when you are not at your best.
Life's unexpected events and themes of empowerment have often driven the creative process of the work I do at Jewel of Havana. In fact, I named the company after the strongest woman I know, my mother. My new Snow in Havana Jewelry line is a tribute to her story, and what an amazing story it is!
My mother first came to the United States from Cuba as part of Operation Peter Pan. Operation Peter Pan (or Pedro Pan) was led by Father Byran O. Walsh in response to the mounting political regime of Fidel Castro. As Castro began closing private schools, fears that the government would begin sending minors to work camps in the Soviet Union caused many Cuban parents to risk their lives and homes to get children out of the country and into Miami.
Children of all ages were sent to America alone, relying on shelters and group homes run by Catholic Charities. The operation began in 1960 but abruptly ended in 1962, following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Because of this, nearly all of the children were without their parents until the later half of the decade. Though most were eventually reunited with their parents, some never saw them again.
One of those children was my mother. She was 17 when she came to America, after working for the underground herself. I wanted to ask her a few questions about her own experience.
What was the most challenging part of being in America?
Communication was probably the greatest challenge. I had studied English in school and was able to speak the language to get by. However, understanding people that spoke fast or use idioms that I was not familiar with was very difficult. At school, it would take me a very long time to complete reading assignments and since I had to also work to sustain myself, there was not much time for sleeping.
Introducing the Snow In Havana Jewelry Collection
Inspired by the strength and courage we all have within us to weather any storm. Jewelry elegant enough to dance the night away at the Tropicana in the romantic Cuba of my mother's youth and a symbol of their adopted country and the magic of hope and new beginnings.
I just returned from an exciting gemstone buying trip to New York. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a former Broadway Actress and this past weekend was the Tony Awards aka the Super Bowl for Broadway. Not too long ago two time Tony Award winner, Donna Murphy, was spotted wearing a Jewel of Havana White Keshi Pearl Necklace and Earring Set on the Red Carpet! (You may know her as the Witch/Mom in the Disney movie Tangled or currently the PBS series Mercy Street as the Mother)
What Is a Keshi Pearl?
The word Keshi comes from the Japanese word for “poppy seed”. The term is used in Japanese for pearls that are formed without a nucleus and are usually the by-product of the cultured pearl process. The keshi forms when the oyster rejects the nucleus and begins to coat the irritant with layers of nacre. Because keshi pearls consist of solid nacre, they tend to have a beautiful high luster. These pearls are not found in large quantities and can take 7 years to form. I love the unusual shape for making light weight pearl statement necklaces.
Keshi pearls are my most popular type of pearls and I’m often sold out. They aren’t easy to find in good quality at an affordable price but this last trip to New York, I scored some beautiful strands! I just put them out this week at Theatre Baton Rouge and have only a few left from the trip so rather than put them on the website, I’ve decided to offer them to my VIP list first. The necklace has one of my handmade sterling silver leaf clasps made from real impatiens leaves. This will probably be the last time I have Keshi’s at this price. I had to use every bit of Southern charm I could muster to negotiate the price for this quality.
Natural Blue Coral
Another rare find from my trip was natural blue coral in a coin shape. Many of you have seen the beautiful blue coral sets I had from Indonesia. They recently sold out but on this trip I was able to find enough to make a few necklaces. They are natural and legally harvested as they washed up on the shores of Indonesia after the Tsunami. The coins are 25mm in diameter and approximately 20.5” long, handknotted with silk and finished with one of my handmade sterling silver leaf clasps made from real lantana leaves.
If you are on the VIP list and are interested in the Blue Coral Necklace or a White Keshi Necklace and Earring set, just follow the link in your newsletter for your VIP private shopping access. If you'd like to see them in person, we are in the lobby of Theatre Baton Rouge for two more weeks during the run of The Little Mermaid.
If you would like access to the Keshi Set or Blue Coral Necklace and other very limited edition pieces, join the VIP list here. VIPs are always the first to know about new designs, have access to special stones not on the website and receive free shipping codes each month.
The rainbow-like iridescence of Mother of Pearl has been used as decorative enhancement in jewelry, clothing, furniture, musical instruments, and more for centuries. Mother of Pearl is nacre, the same material that lines the shells of mollusks like oysters, mussels, and abalones, and that forms the outer shell of the pearl. It’s wavy grain is a result of seasonal fluctuations in a mollusk’s diet: the darker organic material laid down in winter months, the lighter and whiter nacre laid down in the summer months. When Mother of Pearl is carved directly from the shell, no two pieces are alike. Jewel of Havana has carved Mother of Pearl cameos, earrings and necklaces that are unique in that way, and sure to be noticed.
While a pearl’s shape is made by nature, Mother of Pearl’s shape can be man-made. The shell can be powdered and reconstituted for any application. Through that process, much larger “pearls” can be created more affordably. Jewel of Havana has a full line of Mother of Pearl necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, in a variety of colors that are made in this way.
Mother of Pearl has been regarded highly by mystics, who believe it helps with clarity and decision making, and alters negative energy. It’s also believed to boost intuition and psychic sensitivity, and to heighten the imagination.
You should care for your Mother of Pearl the same way you do your pearls. Clean it with mild soap and water (or our recommended all natural jewelry cleaner) with a very soft cloth. And let it be the “last thing on, first thing off” in your routine to avoid scratches and the build up of make-up and hair products. If you already love pearl, you’re bound to love wearing Mother of Pearl, as well. Nothing else feels or looks quite like it.
The practice of wearing a stone associated with your birth month is a popular and ancient tradition. Most gem scholars concur that this custom was originally inspired by the Breastplate of Aaron, which was set with twelve gemstones representing the twelve tribes of Israel, also corresponding to the twelve months of the year, and twelve signs of the zodiac. Each stone was thought to have heightened influence during the time of the year to which it was attached, so many people collected all the stones, and wore them in successive order.
Wearing a single birthstone associated with the month you were born is a more recent custom, beginning several centuries ago in either Germany or Poland. The modern birthstone chart was not developed until 1912, when the National Association of Jewelers adopted the official list most people are familiar with today. Either list can guide you to a special piece of jewelry to celebrate the birth of a special someone.
Jewel of Havana carries jewelry featuring many modern and traditional birthstones, including ruby, amethyst, jasper, agate, opal, peridot, turquoise, and lapis lazuli. A birthstone ring, bracelet, necklace or pendant feels special to wear and makes a very personal gift, whether you purchase it for a friend, a loved one -- or for yourself!
Throughout human history, pearls have been sought after for their elegance and beauty. Before the advent of cultured pearl farming in the early 1900s, natural pearls were incredibly rare, and only the nobility or extraordinarily rich could afford them. Today, with more affordable cultured pearls making up the bulk of what’s produced, pearls are
more accessible to everyone.
Pearl is a “natural gemstone,” and the only gemstone created by a living creature. When a foreign object (like a grain of sand) gets into a pearl producing mollusk, like a mussel or an oyster, that mollusk’s natural defense mechanism coats the object with nacre. As layers of nacre build up, a pearl is born. Both cultured pearls and natural pearls are “real.” The difference between them is how the foreign object is introduced. In natural (wild) pearls it happens naturally, and in cultured pearls, it’s introduced by humans. You can’t tell the difference between a cultured and a natural pearl without an x-ray!
Traditionally, the ideal pearl was round, smooth, and white. But there’s a wide variety of shapes and colors available. Jewel of Havana’s pearl jewelry collection features fresh water pearl earrings and freshwater pearl necklaces and bracelets in white, gold, rose, peridot, black and even chocolate tones. Fresh water pearls are also prominent in the Children’s Jewelry Collection, with our christening baby bracelets, and ballerina bracelets being among the most popular.
Makeup and hairspray can build up and affect the luster of pearl, so let your pearls be
the “last thing on, first thing off” in your routine. Clean your pearl jewelry with mild soap
and water (or our recommended all natural jewelry cleaner) with a very soft cloth.
Dry them completely, and store flat. Never hang your hand knotted jewelry. Storing flat avoids stretching your silk and prolongs the time between restringing.
Pearl is the June birthstone, and considered the “stone of sincerity.” Historically, pearls have been symbolic of purity and faith, and many believe pearl can boost personal integrity and help clear the mind. Regardless of why you choose to buy or wear it, the luster and iridescence of pearl is irresistible. Let us help you add to your collection!
Ana Maria Andricain
Ana is a metal clay certified artist creating handcrafted nature inspired artisan jewelry from her Baton Rouge studio. If you love natural gemstones and metal, welcome home!