Jewelry is a great way to accessorize an outfit, whether a casual day ensemble or an elegant evening look. On island, there is something to suit everyone, from renowned international designers at high-end jewelry stores, to local jewelry makers who make one-of-a kind pieces from a wide range of materials.
Weekender explores the work of five local jewelers and the inspiration behind their designs.
Gale Tibbetts of 24 KMon Jewellers adores the creative process and has been making jewelry for more than 35 years. Her designs are handmade and created in the Cayman Islands and are constantly evolving.
“My great passion in life is making jewelry,” Tibbetts said.
“I include so many gemstones, beads, freshwater pearls and Swarovski crystals into my designs. It is hard to select a favorite, but I would say that the Swarovski crystals and the freshwater pearl beads are at the top of my list.”
At the moment, Tibbetts is hand-stamping some new pieces for her “Expression Trinket” collection. Each individual letter or number is hand-stamped one at a time onto oval- heart- and spiral-shaped pieces of silver. Phrases include “Walk with me down by the sea” and “The sea calls to me.”
She has also just finished some long necklaces combining various beads like caymanite, Swarovski crystals and pearls. These are versatile pieces that, can be worn long or a short length when doubled up on the neck.
Her designs are always inspired by the island and the ocean and decorated with semi-precious stones such as turquoise, coral, quartz, amethyst, amber, caymanite and black coral. There is also a large colorful earring collection, some with Swarovski crystal starfish beads.
Tibbetts was inspired to create the “Bee Line” collection of boho-style stackable bracelets after the loss of her sister Brenda Tibbetts-Lund to breast cancer. There is an annual walk-a-thon which is named in her memory, and Tibbetts donates a portion of the proceeds to the Lion’s Club of Tropical Gardens’ “Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.”
Eileen Davidson said she started playing around with beads at 19, but it was not until she her first daughter was born that she started making jewelry to sell.
“Almost all my pieces are inspired by my surroundings and over half of the pieces I make are different shades of blues and greens, inspired by our beautiful Cayman waters,” Davidson said.
Current trends always influence Davidson’s designs and they are fun and easy to wear. Her four favorite gemstones are turquoise, coral, freshwater pearls and amazonite. She also use caymanite, amethyst, mother of pearl shell, jade, black onyx, quartz, crystals and vintage chains.
Particularly beautiful are her designs in turquoise and aqua crystals with silver feathers, leather thong necklace with amethyst and silk tassel, pearl bracelets with angel wing, anchor, starfish, key or sand dollar charms; twisted four-strand necklace in coral, mother of pearl, pearl and turquoise, black cord lariats with turquoise, quartz or amethyst,
Launa Batten started making jewelry in 1990,inspired by watching Dr. Joseph Jackman, who subsequently taught her.
“I am particularly inspired by the beautiful layers of the caymanite stone of the island and the natural beauty of the whelk and conch shells,” said Batten.
She makes Pandora beads from caymanite, silver-studded black coral, whelk and pink and white conch shell. She also makes stunning jewelry and sculptures from brain coral that washes up from the sea.
Rachel Christ of Xie Xie Designs has lived in Cayman for 26 years and started designing jewelry in 2001. She trained as an apprentice in 2004 with Nagoon on a silversmith course at Nova Gallery in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
“I am inspired by the color palette of the Caribbean sea,” said Christ. “I am also inspired by the island lifestyle where you can either dress up to go out to dinner or wear something casual.” Her designs are bold, elegant and sophisticated and can be worn with a T-shirt and jeans or a little black dress.
“I find inspiration when I am on the hunt for new stones when I am in Bangkok,” added Christ. “Looking through the markets and meeting up with my suppliers is always fun as I never know what I will find. I also like to see what the Southeast Asian fashion world‘s latest trends are to add some depth to my collection.”
All the stones and pearls are personally hand-picked from Bangkok and include amethyst, blue topaz, labradorite, rose quartz, Afghan turquoise and freshwater pearls. Last year she started designing using reborn or Keshi pearls which have been very popular in Asia but are rarely seen on this side of the world. They are a “second harvest” pearl in a mussel that has already produced a pearl but still has an intact pearl sac. They usually have high luster and can come in many shapes.
Afghan turquoise is also a stone that is a source of energy for Christ, and each stone is uniquely different.
Marie Joelle Larocque-Walker
Marie Joelle Larocque-Walker, who has lived in Cayman since 2005, was originally an interior designer and started designing jewelry after a five-month stay in Bali.
“I have always traveled and sourced original handmade jewelry from local designers and have always had an interest in creating my own designs,” said Larocque-Walker. “While in Bali, I met with John Hardy and became fascinated by the silversmiths and their dedication to this art. I started off with designing one piece, which led to a meeting in a precious gems store and that was it. I was in heaven! I chose my favorite stones, met with a local silversmith and began to design my own line.”
Larocque-Walker specializes in custom pieces and likes to add a personal touch to all her projects.
“I am very detail-oriented. I do not feel that a project is finished until every detail is exactly how I envisioned it to be.”
She walks on the beach daily with her two pugs Ernie and Stella and is always collecting shells, stones and seeds, which inspired her to create a line of jewels dedicated to Cayman.
“I am hoping to develop this custom line inspired by our beautiful island and pieces found in nature,” Larocque-Walker added. “I am studying to become a yoga instructor and am very much involved in pursuing a spiritual path. I gravitate towards crystals and stones that heal.”
Larocque-Walker believes that certain stones and symbolic necklaces hold a lot of power and that certain stones, crystals and ancient symbols can help people on their personal life journey.
“While in Bali and India, I embraced the spiritual culture and rituals that have been around for thousands of years,” she said. “I truly believe jewelry, designed for an intent, can help people and balance our inner energies so that we can progress and become who we are truly meant to be. My jewelry line is focused on old customs and rituals that have been practiced to promote protection, clearing and healing in many cultures.”
She works mainly with crystals, gemstones, volcano stone, caymanite, and yellow and rose gold.
“I find rose gold complements our golden sun-kissed skin,” said Larocque-Walker. The rose gold is combined with feathers carved from bone.
“Many cultures and tribes believe that when wearing bone, you connect with the spirit of that animal being and absorb the animal’s powers,” said Larocque-Walker. She is now developing a “Mala” line with precious stones and sandalwood.
Gale Tibbetts – 927-7595, [email protected], Camana Bay Artisans Market Wednesdays, Pure Art Gallery, Lighthouse restaurant gif
t shop and other boutiques from time to time.
Launa Batten – Camana Bay Artisans Market on a Wednesday and the Grounds on a Saturday. She can be commissioned by calling 939-8332 or emailing [email protected].
Eileen Davidson – Camana Bay Artisan’s Market Wednesdays, Facebook; Jewelry by Eileen Davidson.
Marie Joelle Larocque-Walker – 916-0504
Rachel Christ – Xie Xie Designs, 916-8757, [email protected].