POSTED ON JANUARY 9, 2008:
Lady Sings the Bleus
Survey your jewelry collection to determine whether you have all the essentials, plus a few one-of-a-kind gems
Need Based. Fashion, or costume jewelry, is just as important of an accessory staple as diamond studs or a strand of pearls. Jewelry shown is courtesy of Natie Bleu.
I decided on a sudden whim that I wanted a new jewelry box. The idea struck me at just the right moment, prior to the holidays, which was especially great given my weak Christmas list. I expected to receive a new dresser top wooden box to place my collection of baubles. Instead, my sister presented me with a jewelry armoire. You know, the furniture pieces that stand a few feet high, have several drawers and generally a mirror affixed to the lid? I felt uncertain about it at first. I mean, it required assembly, which always makes me squeamish. But once I opened the box, discovered how well it matched the rest of my furniture and that my sister would screw (bolt?) the legs to the body of the armoire, I knew I'd love it. I just didn't know that I could fill it.
When I began transferring the contents of my old, smaller box into my new, larger compartments and drawers, I realized how much jewelry I had. Just like the classics that a closet must supposedly carry (little black dress, black dress pants, white button down shirt, etc.), I had some of the classic jewelry pieces. In went two pairs of diamond earrings, one from each grandmother, the pearl earrings and the odds and ends of fine jewelry I have already begun collecting in my early life. These are the necklaces and rings, fashioned out of gold, adorned with precious and semiprecious stones, which I received from my grandmother throughout the years. These pieces are lovely and get worn quite often throughout the year, but they aren't the staples of my everyday accessorizing. Of the items that went into my new armoire, 95 percent were fashion jewelry pieces.
Cheap and Classy
Fashion, or costume jewelry, is just as important of an accessory staple as diamond studs or a strand of pearls. There is certainly a group of women that stick to the finest of jewelry, but for the average woman of any age, fashion jewelry is the day-to-day good. This jewelry is generally not crafted from extravagant (read: expensive) materials; it may range from metals (besides gold) to glass, plastic, wood and more. Just like other fashions, this jewelry can be as timeless or as trendy as what you're purchasing.
Sadly, fashion jewelry may have been given a bad rap because so many retailers offering fashion jewelry have allowed cheaper costs to reflect cheaper looking merchandise. Recently, though, a new store specializing in fashion jewelry and other accessories, Nattie Bleu, opened at 3515 S. Peoria.
The store has been a part of Tulsa's shopping experience for over a year now. Owner Natalie D. Allen was "inspired by travels throughout Europe, Japan, the Caribbean and major cities in the United States" to create a jewelry boutique like those found throughout her travels. For the pieces Nattie Bleu carries, Allen leafs through current fashion magazines, scouting out looks that are fashion forward.
Nattie Bleu's main focus is fashion jewelry but also carries an assortment of items. There are designer sunglasses, candles, novelty martini glasses with painted designs and a variety of wallets and purses. There are also pieces of jewelry that fall into the "fine" jewelry category. For instance, there was a strong request for pearls, so Allen now carries sets of pearl necklaces by Alex Woo. The store also carries several gold and silver pieces.
Besides offering the latest jewelry trends, Allen has done her research into what Tulsans really want in their accessory boxes. Did you know that Tulsa, and the Midwest in general, heavily favors silver jewelry? While the West Coast and East Coast have made gold the popular jewelry metal of choice, we still love our silver. Browsing Nattie Bleu, you can see that Allen keeps this silver fixation in mind, but also sells gold and other materials to expand Tulsa's horizons. Two trends that are already big in Europe include black silver (which Nattie Bleu carries) and pink gold, which will be coming soon to the store.
But interesting artistic accessories don't necessarily have to come from major fashion-centric cities or across seas. Nattie Bleu carries jewelry lines, shawls/scarves, and paintings by local artists, too. Tulsa jewelry maker Heidi Bigknife constructs bold pieces from silver. Terasa Fadem makes scarves that are hand-loomed and then felted. The art throughout the boutique is native to Tulsa artist Jeannie Graham.
Allen said her audience has been comprised of women in their 40s, but the assortment of jewelry throughout the store aims at any age group. There are no running themes in the lines, with some jewelry designs being delicate and simplistic, to others being bold and attention grabbing. There are pieces that are trendy and very of-the-moment, but also timeless classics. And while the sound of a jewelry boutique may elicit a "cha-ching," the prices actually vary from $25 to $700.
Out of the Blue
So what can you expect? Let's start with the jewelry line I found the most interesting. Extasia Mammoth Jewelry is made from fossilized mammoth ivory, aged 50,000 years. Yes, fossilized mammoth tusks may not sound like the sexiest thing to dangle from your ears or neck, but the line has a quirky feel to it. There are rings made from the mammoth ivory in red and black cameos and necklaces with eccentric charms (a shoe lacer from centuries ago) including hand-carved pieces from ancient mammoth tusks. I really liked a pair of earrings with dangling green gemstones that, upon closer inspection, revealed that the mammoth ivory was shaped into tiny skulls.
For something hip and less fossilized, there is a line of jewelry by Claudia Lobao. This line, worn by stars like Eva Longoria, features geometric shapes in gold, silver and combination pieces. There are big necklaces with geometric shapes forming the chains, and dangling silver earrings that look like they are crocheted flowers.
Bracelets, necklaces, earrings, cuff bracelets, rings, pins/brooches and atypical charm bracelets are displayed throughout the store. There are rings with big unshaped pieces of stone and a variety of turquoise items. There's also a prominent display of necklaces and earrings made with Swarovski crystals. These pieces cater to the woman looking for something delicate, colorful and sparkly without having to exceed her bank account.
Allen pointed out a display of bracelets by Jessica Kagan Cushman that I have seen featured in several magazines. Cushman's website describes the pieces as "pre-ban, antique ivory bracelets engraved with quotes and phrases from movies, literature and in some cases, New York graffiti." The scrimshaw bracelet gained fame when the original concepts were ripped off by the fashion gods at Chanel. Cushman retaliated with a bracelet that aimed at the prominent design house. At Nattie Bleu, you'll find the Cushman bracelets read phrases like "Pardon me, is this seat taken?," "Lions and tigers and bears," "Do you have any idea who I am?" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."
The jewelry is just the beginning of the store's items. There are Italian leather bags by designers found nowhere else in Tulsa. There are dainty evening clutches and leather belts with big belt buckles. There are also bejeweled picture frames. Everything Nattie Bleu sells has the appeal for being precious or without frills, because we all have days where we want to be one or the other.
Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 10am to 5:30pm, or you can schedule an appointment. The Nattie Bleu website, HYPERLINK "http://www.nattiebleu.com"; www.nattiebleu.com, displays some of the jewelry sold and allows you to purchase items online.
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