Flavors of the Mekong

By James

Gems must be on my mind because the colorful fruits along the Mekong provide subtle reminders of the multi-colored sapphires and diamonds embedded in gold bangles back at the studio.

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In this instance, I’m admiring a woven basket holding bright red dragon fruit and yellow mango aboard our boat rounding Tân Phong island. Nina breaks open the scaly, layered folds of the dragon fruit to reveal a delicate white flesh studded with black seeds. The texture and flavor is much less dramatic than its appearance, reminiscent of a kiwi fruit. This contrasts with the meaty flavor of yesterday’s jack fruit. Meaty, really? Surprisingly, jack fruit is a hearty carnitas substitute for the vegan taco-lover.

Of course, the Mekong Delta offers much more than just tropical fruit. An early morning walk to the market at Hoà Ninh reveals the raw bounty of the region, especially the seafood or I should say riverfood. Bags of dried shrimp sit alongside buckets of live fish, eels, snakes, and frogs at the waterfront. Avoiding a catfish leaping from a bucket, I move to wander through the less animated stalls of produce, baked goods, and household items.

Heading back to our homestay, we watch a busy couple deliver blocks of ice by boat, reminding me of ca phe sua da back at the homestay. A day on the Mekong (really, any day in Vietnam) is not complete until a delicious iced coffee with milk is at hand. Vietnamese coffee is very dark, strong, and bitter so the condensed milk and ice create the perfect balance.

Packed up and back on the river, we enjoy snacks of coconut-sweetened tapioca with sticky rice wrapped in green banana leaves and jasmine green tea as we head to the homes of artisans scattered throughout the region.

In the next post, I’ll share more about how the women we meet create both practical and beautiful items with local materials like water hyacinth and nipa palm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lapis – Pantone Color Spring 2017

Pantone chose lapis and so did Nina Nguyen Designs!

Pantone Spring 2017 – Lapis Blue

Pantone has selected their colors for Spring 2017 and I’m thrilled about the color palate, especially as one of them is named Lapis Blue. I’m crazy about Lapis and I’ve been incorporating it into my line for quite some time. I even tried some different shapes of this mesmerizing blue in my new fine jewelry Heritage Collection.

Lapis Earrings by Nina Nguyen Designs

Nina Nguyen Designs, Spirit Earrings, 14k yellow gold, lapis

Lapis lazuli has long been regarded as the stone of wisdom and truth. It is associated with the Greek Goddess Athena who was notorious for her keen intellect and strategic planning.

Nina Nguyen Designs - Spirit Necklace in Lapis

Lapis – The Stone of Wisdom

The history between humans and lapis dates back to 6,500 B.C. when enthusiasts would travel over treacherous mountain terrain to secure some of this deep dark blue. Back in the day Lapis was prized as much as turquoise and sapphire. Not only was it used in jewelry, but it was also crushed up and used for medicinal purposes. Additionally, it’s been known to be used as a cosmetic!

Lapis Necklace by Nina Nguyen Designs

Nina Nguyen Designs, Heritage Necklette, 14k yellow gold, lapis

Folklore also tells us that lapis lazuli was a powerful talisman that purified the soul.  The Egyptians were rumored to crush up lapis and gold to make a mask placed on the forehead said to remove demons as it dried. I find it so fascinating that gemstones had such significant meaning in ancient times.

Nina Nguyen Designs - Lapis Spirit Ring

Nina Nguyen Designs, Spirit Ring, sterling silver, lapis

This stunning stone is roughly associated with the astrological sign Sagittarius, but any sign can rock this stone. I’m not sure I believe the hype, so instead of crushing them for medicine or make-up I will wrap my harmony lapis necklette around my wrist on days I need a pick me up! Gemstones have a mystery and power all their own that we may never truly understand.

Lapis Bracelet by Nina Nguyen Designs

Nina Nguyen Designs, Heirloom Bracelet, 22k vermeil, lapis

Nina Nguyen Aztec Earrings, 14kt, blue opal, moonstone

Opals – The Stone of Lightning

Boulder Opal

Boulder Opal

Originally opals were deemed as evil and bad luck. They were associated with sorcerers as they closely mimic the luminescence of cats’ and toads’ eyes. Over time the connotation for this precious gemstone shifted significantly. The Bedouins believed that opals arrived to us through thunderstorms as they had tiny bolts of lightening captured inside. I like this theory the best as you see flashes of light reflecting off the stone. Any of you fellow opal addicts know exactly what I mean! The Romans believed opals were the most powerful stone of all since they captured the rainbow of color found in all the existing stones. I believe, much like the Europeans, that opals are the stone of hope, purity and truth.

 

Nina Nguyen Aztec Earrings, 14kt, blue opal, moonstone

Nina Nguyen Aztec Earrings, 14kt, blue opal, moonstone

October’s birthstones happen to be two of my favorites: tourmaline and opal. I’ll be sharing more about the magic of tourmaline next week, but for now I’d like to focus on this stone of lightening. Not only are they gorgeous, but they happen to be one-of-a-kind. Boulder opals are a vibrant blue that mimic fingerprints in the sense that no two are ever alike.

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Nina Nguyen Calypso Earrings, silver, various opals

Birthstone gift giving is a tradition carries over from ancient times, when the metaphysical properties of stones were accepted as facts. Between then and now a lot of debate has raged on, hence the reason that you’ll often find not one, but two stones chosen for every month of the year.

 

Nina Nguyen Ambrosia Necklace, 14kt, blue opal

Nina Nguyen Ambrosia Necklace, 14kt, blue opal

No matter what you believe there is no denying that opals always capture your eye’s attention. Their glow is powerful, strong and never subtle. They make a perfect gift for an October baby or for anyone who loves the magic and power of beautiful jewelry.

Wrap yourself in Happy with a Harmony Birthstone Necklette

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If you’re looking to give a gift (or gift yourself!) a special piece of jewelry in the near future, then you might want to consider the Harmony Birthstone Necklette.

Birthstone jewelry makes a great gift, something unique and personal that carries a story and the promise of beautiful things to come.  Want to know more about birthstone jewelry?  Then this blog is for you!

The history of birthstones began centuries ago, with the creation of sacred breastplate of Aaron.   Aaron was the brother of Moses, and became the leader of the Levitical tribe of Israel.  Aaron’s sacred breastplate was adorned with 12 gemstones, and a connection was made between those 12 gemstones to the 12 months of the year and then the 12 signs of the Zodiac.  The Hebrew names for the stones on the breastplate have proven difficult to identify with any certainty as different translations of scripture identify different stones.

While ancient, traditional birthstones were society-based, in 1912, the modern birthstone chart was born when, in an effort to standardize birthstones, the American National Association of Jewelers met in Kansas and officially adopted a list, which, with some slight modifications, is still used today.

Throughout history, gemstones have been believed to hold magical and therapeutic powers.  Because gemstones come from the earth, each one has a special vibration.  Gemstones and crystals each have a unique structure and composition, which gives each one a particular vibration rate and quality.

Harmony, an extension of the popular Nina Nguyen Designs “Wisteria” Collection, is a fashionable, fun and affordable way to add gemstone jewelry featuring birthstone gems, to every woman’s jewelry wardrobe.  The exclusive Necklette design is available in a variety of gemstone choices, including Garnet, Amethyst, Aquamarine, White Topaz, Emerald, Moonstone, Ruby, Peridot, Sapphire, Pink Topaz, Citrine and Blue Topaz.

The versatility of this latest collection, enhanced by the ombre beads and resort feel, creates a sense of wrapping yourself up in happy, when slipping one (or more!) of these pieces on.

HARMONY WAYS TO WEAR

Jewelry from the Harmony collection is also a great choice for Mother’s Day, Graduations, Holidays, and any special occasion when you want give a personal, thoughtful gift.

For more information on Harmony, or any of the Nina Nguyen Designs Collections, visit Nina-Nguyen.com, email info@nina-nguyen.com or call 720-459-7664.