What NOT to Wear: Jewelry

As a jewelry designer who specializes in custom fit and design, I feel as though I've seen it all over the years: the good, the great, the "eh" and the... well, just plain wrong.

Even thought it's not as difficult as say, finding great clothes for your body type, there are some guidelines that every woman should be aware of when choosing items to adorn herself.

Jewelry was created to accentuate features on your body/face. The type of jewelry as well as color, shape and movement all play important roles in what part of your body is given "center stage". This is because our minds are pre-programmed to look for patterns, similarities, and differences.

We'll start this edition of "What NOT to Wear: Jewelry" by explaining what body part each type of jewelry will accentuate. Understanding this is the first step to developing your own personal style so you can accessorize to look your best.

Many pieces of jewelry draw attention to the exact area where they are worn, like rings, belts and hair clips. However, other foundation jewelry items can draw the eye elsewhere; and therefore, highlight OR minimize more than just the area it covers.

Earrings will draw attention to your eyes. They frame your face and echo your pair of eyes. Practically every woman looks great in earrings since eyes are typically the most vibrant feature. From simple studs to swaying chandeliers to bold hoops, earrings will create eye allure in a number of different ways.

Adorn yourself with a necklace when you want to draw the focus to your upper body. Chokers, pendants, bibs, lariats, and luxurious long strands all give prominence to different areas of this seductive part of your body including your lips, neck, chest and decolletage. Because the focus area is primarily your skin, the materials used greatly impact this effect.

A classic example of this are pearls. Have you ever wondered why pearls are so often used in bridal and formal jewelry designs? The answer lies in one word: luminescence. The silky sheen of the pearl mimics glowing, healthy skin which looks fantastic on every woman, especially when used to highlight the skin of your upper body.

Bracelets accentuate your hands, your wrists and can even make arms appear thinner. Be it cuffs, bands, multiple strands, delicate chains with none, one, a few or a multitude of dangling charms; bracelets are a versatile way to spotlight or de-emphasize a variety of body parts.

They can also draw attention to your waist and/or hips if the bracelet is similar to what your wearing. Or bracelets can draw attention away from your mid-section if its design is in contrast to what you are wearing.

Similarly, anklets highlight your legs & feet in addition to your ankles.

Styles, color & color schemes, shape and materials all factor in to how this foundation jewelry items enhance your appearance which will be covered in future posts. Or if you'd rather be guided through the process, visit Manda Panda Creations' Custom Design
to learn more about custom design and creating pieces especially for your shape and style.

I hope you've enjoyed the first edition of "What NOT to Wear: Jewelry" and learned something to help develop your personal jewelry style to enhance your best assets.

2010 Year in Review and Resolutions

We've toasted the old, rung in the new and made our annual resolutions for what we'd like to change in 2011.

Here are just a few of mine, but to be frank,
these are just the "best practices" from some
business professionals who very graciously
advise me. (Well, except the last one - -
that's 100% mine and on the list every year).
1. Blog more frequently and consistently
2. Improve my use of social media
3. Network more (and actually attend events)
And, of course, lose 20 lbs

I could stop there and finish with a dry toast to the New Year, but this is "Behind the Beaded Curtain" so I'll get more personal than that. (Besides, these "resolutions" aren't terribly different from those of any one running a web-based business.)

2010 was a challenging year for Manda Panda Creations because it was a challenging year for our family. The year began in a critical state in two aspects: emotionally, as our son had been sick & fevered continuously for the last three months of 2009; and financially, as my husband's company was folding.

Facing surgery for our son, my husband opted to take the first job that came along. This job took him to Rhode Island and kept him working such long hours we hardly talked, let alone saw each other for most of this year. Even though my husband has always traveled a lot for his career, our toddler was not used to having so little contact with his Dad by phone, skype, etc. So our son, just 3-years old, clung to the only person he felt he had left: his Momma.

Every mom I know has warned me to prepare for my child to pull away from me around age 3, but I actually had the opposite experience. I wasn't able to do anything without him right by my side - not even move the laundry from the washer to the dryer or go to the bathroom. He wasn't sleeping at night if he couldn't be right next to me, holding my hand or my hair or my pajamas. It was a definitely regression and I felt certain it was damaging to our child's development.

When I decided to launch mandapandacreations.com, our son was a little more than 2-years old. By the time I figured out that I couldn't effectively run a business JUST at night when he was sleeping, he was 2 years 8 months old. I remember it that distinctly because that's when we decided to put our son in daycare part-time. It took a couple of months and a lot of patience to transition him to daycare, but he grew to love "going to school" and I could concentrate on running my business (for the first time since starting it). That bliss lasted less than four months.

So I decided to unplug almost completely from my business this year. An odd choice perhaps, but my son needed me so I was there for him. After all, how long will 'just being with Mom' be all he wants/needs? My family also needed me to figure out how to reunite us. I started by trying to sell our houses (we own two). I also took our son on more play dates and adventures to try to help cut the apron strings. By mid-spring we were making progress with toddler independence, but a new problem arose. Our son was mad at Dad, so our work was not done.

Beyond the over challenged logistics of family time together, I found myself in & out of the hospital this year (challenging when your spouse is home, but lunacy when you're living like a single mom). Fortunately, the lack of sleep which exacerbated my symptoms eventually helped lead doctor to a diagnosis: celiac's disease, an auto-immune disorder that leads to nutrient deficiency. So all this time I thought something was wrong, it was. Fortunately, the treatment is incredibly simple: I just don't eat gluten!

So how did everything else wrap up? Eating gluten-free has been a God-send. It's been helpful for our son too, who was suffering with terrible allergy symptoms which are now gone. I was unsuccessful selling either of our houses, but I took on a new title this year: Landlord. I successfully renovated one of our houses and found a great family to help me grow the equity until the market rebounds (or they decide to buy it). I enjoyed that experience so much, I'm sure I'll try doing it again.

And perhaps even more odd, we had cause to celebrate when my husband's employer and he decided enough was enough parted ways this fall. My darling husband is still looking for work, which is stressful (especially during the holidays) but we're finally living like normal families do: together! And once Dad was home for a while, consistently, our son knew it wouldn't hurt to get close to him again.

And what of my business? Well, I took little moments and still got to play with my gemstones. I found some success in doing repair work for mom's while at play dates (mostly of jewelry from companies employing a 'pyramid of women' to sell it, btw - - a reminder that quality is defined by service after the sale, not just at point of sale!). And best of all, the bulk of my sales in 2010 were doing what I love most: custom design.

Our family made the best of 2010 despite its hardships. And strange as it may sound, I find myself very grateful for the struggles. Because of them I KNOW (not just presume) that my husband loves me & our son more than his career. I KNOW that my son is resilient to heart break, a good thing to know before he has his first romantic crush. I KNOW that we have a great support system. I would be completely remiss, if I didn't take a moment to give a tip & a nod to my parents, siblings, extended family and friends, without whom 2010 would not have been bearable at its lowest points or sparkled as brightly during its high moments. And finally, I KNOW that I am looking forward to 2011, no matter what it brings!

Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

My upcoming Web-a-versary

So, most everyone who reads this blog or know me know that Manda Panda Creations is a one woman show.  More accurately mandapandacreations.com is a one Mom show, since I didn't decide to go on the web until just prior to our son's second birthday.

Next month will mark the anniversary of MPC's presence on the web and with every anniversary there comes a time of reflection: What has worked?  What hasn't?  What is yet to be tried?  And I've concluded, which will come as no shock to the web or business savvy, is that networking is still king.  And the farming adage about time & patience still very aptly applies as much to a web-based business as it does to a brick & mortar.

A year ago I really did think LAUNCHING the website was the big hurdle.  Boy, was I naive.  

Truth be told, I've actually been lucky in gaining success with my sloppy attempts at self promotion and laissez faire efforts with networking.  Perhaps not surprisingly so - I love meeting people and I'm passionate about what I do.  But the knowing the best ways to translate what comes natural to me with the tools available for web promotion has proven more of a challenge than originally anticipated.  The investigation, setup and administration of these tools takes a huge chunk out of my creative time.   

I've begun reviewing options to streamline my promotional efforts.  In doing so I now have a greater why my competition is so much more expensive than me for similar goods.  This leaves me, at the start of the new decade at a cross roads.  Do I go big or do I remain a modest but still successful shop which hopefully grows over time?  

Or is there a happy medium?  Well, I hope there is.  My plan is to try to continue doing what works (actually better and more of it) and to reach out to you, my friends and allies to ask for a little advice and help with the following:

  1. Gaining a wider audience.  I'm on social media: facebooktwitter, but I'm pretty much just social on it.  Well, I do actually have a facebook page, but it doesn't get publically listed until you have 1000 fans! I'm just not real comfortable flagrantly promoting myself.  Any suggestions? 
  2. My blogs: Manda Panda Creations and this one, Behind the Beaded Curtain. I'd like to freshen and streamline them.  Get a custom skin made so I can embed it on my site along with some other widgets.  Know anyone?  Are you that someone?
  3. Website maintenance: My website is home-baked by Mom and my darling hubby.  I need an easier tool to update my database without needing to bug them or wait for them to do it.  (I've got lots of new stuff to list).  I heard 'content managers' are that solution, but what's a good one?  Does anyone know? 
  4. Finally, would you give me a website gradecard?  Visit my site look around and tell me what appeals to you and what doesn't.  
Thanks for reading, looking, considering.  I look forward to getting your feedback, no matter how much or what you have to offer.

Happy New Year! 

Current Safety Issues with Jewelry: Part II Radium in SteamPunk

Steam Punk:  It's new, it's cool and it's good for the environment.  Steam Punk jewelry is the latest thing on the market.  For those who have never heard of it, Steam Punk jewery is recycled mechanical parts, like those found in computers and old watches, which have been created into necklace pendants, rings, bracelets, and earrings.  

But what is old should not always be made new again.  Many old watches contain radium.  The following blog post, dated January 9, 2009, explores the dangers associated with old watch parts and illustrates videos of the radium testing results:

This danger is new and not yet on the government's radar for consumer protection.  Buyer be warned.

Current Safety Issues with Jewelry: Part I Lead

As many of you may be aware, the CPSIA has passed new legislation requiring mandatory testing for all products sold to children aged six or younger.  Most of  the concern is regarding lead in products, most widely found in toys.  But what may come as a surprise to many is the presence of lead in many crystal beads used to create the trendy crystal baby bracelets which sometimes include the baby's name in metal beads.  These beads are also commonly used in the mom's bracelets that have become so trendy today.
Swarovski crystals, commonly regarded as the finest crystals for their precision faceting.  As beautiful as they are, a lead content of up to 21% is present in these crystals.  Celestial crystals, another popular crystal on the market contains 12 to 14% lead in many of their crystals, but has recently released a new lead free crystal.  Czech glass is similar to crystal and contains no lead.

Lead in crystals is used to provide additional weight and add a luxurious feel to beaded jewelry. This level of lead is perfectly safe for adults and children provided you to do not attempt to consume or place them in your mouth.  However, leaded crystals or metals are not considered safe for children under age 6.  Also be on guard for lead in metal beads, especially base metal beads.  There are lead free alternatives and it's your right to be able to get them.  (Although, as a jewelry designer and a mother of a toddler, I do not recommend jewelry for any children under age six due to the risk of choking, no matter what the materials.)

Beginning February 10, 2009 anyone selling these jewelry items for children are obligated to have their products individually tested by a third party agency approved by the CPSIA.  And it is your right to review copies of these results.  If you are told that a product containing Swarovski crystal is lead free, that's simply not possible.  Know your rights and keep your kids safe.

Must Have Jewelry Pieces

Just as with fashion, there are jewelry pieces every woman should have. 
In no particular order, here the top five:

1. Flirty, dangle earrings.
No matter the material used, a dangle earring brings movement and life to your style. Select shapes and colors to compliment and balance your body, face and eyes. (Check out our other blog entries for more info on these topics.)
What they do for you: Draws attention to your eyes.
Tips: Select earrings that have a colors which compliment or match your eye color.

2. The little black necklace.

With the right balance of delicate beading and interesting shapes, a little black necklace is the perfect accent for your little black dress or a great way to dress up jeans and a simple shirt.
What it does for you: Draws attention to a woman's declate, in a subtle yet sexy way.
Tips: Black is still the universal neutral. Use your little black necklace to pull out the black accents in prints or create classic high contrast with a white shirt.

3. A Bracelet that makes a statement.

Whether it's a personalized mom-bracelet, your greek letters or showing your support for a cause like breast cancer awareness, these bracelets are a fun, fashionable way to express yourself.  Lots of options are available with message beads, specialty charms, alpha & greek letter beads, and a vast array of symbols like hearts and religious symbols for all denominations.
What it does for you:  Adds your unique signature to wear everyday or keep as an heirloom momenta.
Tips:  Have a lot to say?  Maybe a multi-strand bracelet is the right choice for you. 
4. The multi-strand necklace.

A multi-strand necklace is a perfect piece to wear over a solid colored top such as a turtleneck, when your cleavage is exposed, or just anytime.  Strands with contrasting color, materials and texture are best when your outfit is monochromatic. Strands with continuity of pattern and color are better with patterned or detailed garments.  Or mix and match styles with some simple strands and some complex.  Any of these looks are stunning and distinctive.
What it does for you: A sophisticated way to draw the eye to the upper body.
Tips: Select monochromatic schemes that mix up shapes to add interest.

5. Abalone Shell jewelry of any kind.

When you are looking for a gift or an item you can grab that will go literally with anything, think of abalone shell.  It's spectral color make it the perfect choice for evening wear to jeans and everywhere in between.
What is does for you: Compliments every color scheme you can imagine and coordinates very well with other pieces made from virtually any other material.
Tips:  Travel with your abalone jewelry pieces to reduce what you need to pack.

But don't limit yourself to the top five jewelry pieces.  
Every woman deserves to be celebrated and decorated.