Handcrafted on the Mekong

by James

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We concluded our excursion on the Mekong with visits to many hard-working families that use local materials to produce a variety of handicrafts and home essentials. Echoing Nina’s combination of focus and creativity, these often women-led businesses demonstrated a relaxed spirit of entrepreneurial enthusiasm.

In fact, I later learned why it was common to see so much self-starting industriousness throughout my travels in Vietnam—95% of Vietnamese support capitalism, by far more than any other country (including the USA) surveyed by the Pew Research Center. With careful planning by our guide, we took to the canals and paths of Tân Phong island and nearby areas to meet as many of these women as we could.

 

Starting by sampan (flat bottomed small wooden boat), we cut through a lush section of Tân Phong to see the first shops before switching to bikes to complete our tour. Among the reed hat makers, tapioca-derived lacework artisans, hanging basket weavers, and others, my favorite was the ease with which a woman could carry on a casual conversation with Nina while also swiftly thatching a roof panel from nipa palm and the comradery among those selling beautiful baskets made from water hyacinth. While I didn’t bring home any thatch roofing, my daughters do now delight in having a sampan-shaped hyacinth basket to display geodes and other little travel treasures.

 

We also passed by many of the larger businesses along the main tributary of the Mekong. Sunday morning activity was light, but the size and number of the operations displayed the productivity of the region. The most notable buildings to any river traveler are the beehive-shaped earthen kilns rising dozens of feet above the banks of the river. Fed by massive baskets of rice hulls, these ovens typically dry bricks but also the pottery commonly seen throughout Saigon and further afield.

 

As our guide directs our boat to Vinh Long for the shuttle back to Saigon, we take with us an increased appreciation for the favors, sights, and people of the Mekong Delta. Seeing Nina’s team produce her stunning vision of the Mekong collection reminds me that Saigon is reflection of its place in the Mekong Delta.

 

 

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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

Tourmaline – Love and Communication

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Watermelon Tourmaline

October brings sweater weather, fall foliage and most importantly tourmaline, one of my favorite gemstones. October’s birthstone claims my attention because of its vibrant hues, its variety and its powerful metaphysical properties.

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Nina Nguyen Designs, Adorn Bangle, 14k yellow gold, pink tourmaline

This stunning beauty was first discovered in the 1500s. The first one found had a deep green hue and was originally claimed as emerald. It’s no surprise that the word tourmaline actually means ‘mixed gems’ in Sinhalese (native tongue of Sri Lanka). Its striking colors often had miners confuse this beauty with a variety of gemstones before it was determined that this gorgeous gem belongs in a class all its own. I don’t think tourmaline gets enough credit for its beauty and versatility. I love using it in my work!
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Legend has it that tourmaline traveled to earth through the rainbow, hence the reason it comes in every hue imaginable. Tourmaline is attributed the powerful metaphysical properties of deep enlightenment, power over spiritual affairs and can quell opposition. According to alchemist folklore, this ‘philosopher’s stone’ is also said to have the power to turn base metal into gold! Do you believe the hype? Pink tourmaline, which you’ll find featured in my new Heritage collection, is believed to be the stone of love and communication.
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Nina Nguyen Designs, Adorn Ring, 14k yellow gold, pink tourmaline

Even if we can’t confirm the myths and magic around this stone, there is no denying its beauty. The metaphysical properties of gemstones used to be perceived as fact, just as it was accepted that the earth was flat. Perhaps we put more value on science than the spirits these days, but these properties were so widely accepted that they carried over to modern day. Birthstones are still given as gifts. This tradition has been passed along from ancient times when a birthstone was given to a baby’s parents to keep the child safe and sound. I like to believe they still bring a lot of that love and positive energy to any recipient. It’s my favorite gift to give.
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Nina Nguyen Designs, Heritage Necklette, 14k yellow gold, tourmaline

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.

National Puppy Day: Its a Druzylicious Pawty

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Today, March 23, is National Puppy Day! It is no secret that we are dog lovers here at Nina Nguyen Designs. Our company mascot (and second in command) is our fierce and stylish monkey, Baci. Baci is a huge part of our Nina Nguyen family (as we are sure your dog is in yours!) and we adore her. Aside from her daily bacon, endless walks, and belly rubs on demand, we are always looking for more ideas to show her how much we love her!

What better way to show your pup some love than throw an awesome puppy pawty? Check out our marketing and event coordinator Amy’s puppy party. This critter inspired party was full of yummies for the puppies, a ‘puppy and me’ photobooth, and a few human treats as well.

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The party featured a treat bar with doggy bags for the owners to fill up and bring home for their pups. All the treats were homemade with nutritious and dog friendly ingredients.  Check out the menu below.
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The Puppy Pawty Menu:
Pumpkin & Peanut Butter Cupcakes  – Used cupcake tin and frosted w/ peanut butter.
Peanut Butter & Bacon Treats – Used the Carob Frosting from the Donuts to dip half in.
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Guests and their humans got to enjoy not only food and treats, but also had a fun time dressing up and making silly faces for a puppy photobooth.
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While the party was mainly for the critters, human guests each got a few party perks. While enjoying the sun and watching their puppy friends play they got to sip on some puppy themed beers and wine.
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Each guest also was given a set of coasters featuring a geometric illustration of their pup!

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For more pictures and details visit Amy’s original post here: A Diamond Mind Blog

Spring is here at Nina Nguyen Designs!

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Spring is almost here and our current obsession around the Nina Nguyen office is the perfect compliment – terrariums! These beautiful creations are a staple of our new office’s décor. Because they make us so happy, I thought I’d share this fun and easy project with you!

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Here’s what you need:

  • Succulents- try combining a variety of heights and colors to make it more interesting
  • Glass container- there are tons of things that you can make a terrarium out of… the sky’s the limit!
  • Lava rocks/pebbles
  • Activated charcoal
  • Potting soil

Step 1: After you have found the perfect container, add a layer of lava rocks or pebbles for water to drain into. This should be about 1” deep, depending on the size of your container.

Step 2: Sprinkle a light layer of the charcoal on top of your rock layer, about ¼”. This serves to filter the water when it drops down from the soil above. Charcoal is especially important to prevent mold if you are using a closed container.

Step 3: Add your potting soil. Ultimately you want this to be a little bit deeper than the roots of your plants. I found it was easiest to start with only a little bit and then add more once the succulents are in place.

Step 4: This is the best part- plant your succulents! Experiment with the placement until you find a design that you love. Needless to say, Nina was awesome at this step of the process! Once they are in place you just add more potting soil and pack it down around them.

Helpful hint- If you’re planting a pokey cactus, loosely wrap a piece of paper around it to guard the points while you move it around.

Step 5: You can add a top layer of pebbles, moss, or bark if you want. It’s also okay to skip this step.

That’s it! Hooray! Check out these pictures of our terrariums around the office:

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Where the Leaves Change

The cascades of colorful leaves and warm breezes of Colorado got me in the mood to bask in the glow of my favorite season. The fall season is a transitional time of year, the changes in weather are obvious, but some changes are more subtle.

Silver bangle, Vermeil Bangle, layering accessories

I want to get cozy and buckle down for the inevitable transformation to winter, and of course to enjoy the outdoors in all of its colorful glory.

Druzy necklace, druzy ring, drussy photoshoot

 It also reminds me to get started on large projects and tackle everything on my bucket list. One thing I know for sure, autumn comes and goes so fast, I want to savor every delicious moment.

layering necklace, work wardrope, foliage fashion.

All Jewelry by Nina Nguyen Designs of course!
Blazer by J Crew
Dress by Free People 

Stackable Pallas Druzy Bangle
Stackable Geode Bangle