The beautiful Port of Valletta in Malta
Malta is the home of the smallest European capital (Valletta at 0.8 km2 ), the Order of St. John of Malta, balmy Mediterranean weather (it is located just south of Sicily after all) and spectacular handcrafted silver filigree jewelry.
This history rich island nation has been the home to Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines. In 60 A.D. St. Peter was shipwrecked on the island in route to Rome and brought Christianity to Malta. In 2017, Ryan Air brought me!
Our Lady of Victories Church
The first building and church in Valletta, 1566
The culture in Malta is rich much thanks to the rule of The Order of St. John from 1530 - 1778 (after which Napolean took over for a few years in route to Egypt, but was soon kicked out in 1800 by the English on request of the Maltese). During this time, the Knights took Malta through a new golden age. It became a key player in the cultural scene of 17th and 18th century Europe. Artists such as Caravaggio, Mattia Preti and Favray who were commissioned by the Knights to embellish churches, palaces and auberges. One of the highlights of my trip was being alone in the Oratory within St John's Co-Cathedral with one of Caravaggio's masterpieces, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608). It is the only painting ever signed by the painter. It was absolutely haunting and breathtaking.
Another highlight was learning about a special silversmith technique that is traditional to Malta and the Mediterranean basin: filigree!
Evidence of the British rule in Malta from 1800 - 1964, the year Malta became independent.
While walking the streets of Valletta, silver filigree jewelry was ubiquitous. The most important streets and many side streets had windows showcasing the detailed and delicate jewelry. I spent several hours my first night just examining window after window searching for the best I could find in the city. It wasn't until I jumped off of the beaten path that I found a lovely shop with the selection and quality I was looking for. And the best part? The artist, Matthew, was in there making pieces while minding the shop.
For two days I went back to the shop to learn more about Mathew's traditional Maltese craft and to select the best of his work for the shop. This 3rd generation silversmith and artisan was proud to demonstrate his work, showcasing to me how he is able to take a piece of silver thread and hand shape it into an intricate work of wearable art. The precision and skill was mesmerizing to witness.
Watch a video of Mathew making one of the stunning, silvery pieces here:
Mathew and Jen!
We are so proud to feature this traditional and distinct art from Malta in the shop now. The Maltese artisans have been fine tuning their craft for centuries, and Mathew's work represents the best I found in Valletta! It was a privilege to witness his adept use of traditional techniques learned from his father to create these pieces that represent his culture, life, and the history of Malta.
We invite you to explore these special pieces in the shop! I suspect you will be as dazzled!
A couple final pics:
This is Mathew's recipe for cleaning silver!
What a street near Mathew's shop looks like...it leads down to the sea!
It is cold and cloudy here in Seattle so that means it is time for me to escape to cold and cloudy Paris! Hurray!
My becoming regular buying/exploring/indulging-in-baguettes winter expedition to Europe will commence in a few short days, and my itinerary is chalk full of new and old favorite places to visit.
While it may seem odd that I cross the Atlantic to the Old World in January versus the Pacific to an US archipelago of tropical islands, there is a method to my madness. First of all, Europe is very inexpensive this time of year as it is clearly off season for most travelers (I booked a flight for 16 Euros from Bologna to Malta!). Second, it is a great time for a break after the bustle of the holiday season and now slower retail season. Third, there is an important accessories show in Paris that takes place the third week of January where I get to see many of the designers that we feature in the shop (it becomes a bit like old home week). See? Not soooooo crazy!
Here is a glimpse of where and what I will be up to January 10 – February 5:
First stop, Paris, bien sur!
First order of business in Paris *after the baguette* will be to tackle the January “soldes.” Oh, the treasures that await. I just got goosebumps!
Another notable mention is that the Ritz hotel is FINALLY open after its 3 year remodel! So a visit there and to its famous Bar Hemingway, which also happens to be my favorite bar in the world, is high on the priority list.
Second stop, Venice!
I literally never tire of the arched bridges, gondola lined canals and maze-like cobble stone streets. If anything the city fascinates and excites me more after each visit.
Perhaps this year I will take a wade again through a flooded San Marco square.
Piazza San Marco back in January of 2014 during one of the ubiquitous high tides during the winter season.
Third stop will be the great food town of Parma, Italy!
Image from Pinterest
The home of parmigiano reggiano cheese and Parma ham will be no place to skip a meal. My taste buds are already tingling!
Fourth stop, Valletta, Malta!
Frankly I don’t know a lot about this island nation, but I do know that it will be a little warmer there as it is located in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Libya. I look forward to learning more about its rich history and culture while soaking in a little sunshine. I hope to pick up a Maltese cross or two toooooo.
Fifth stop, Romania!
Clearly I will have to bring a coat to Bucharest, Romania. The plan is to rent a car from here and then find Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. I look forward to also finding impressive handicrafts for the shop (fingers crossed)!
My trip to Romania may include a divergence into Bulgaria to explore that country as well. Perhaps I will fly back to Paris from Sofia…but there is still time to sort out those details. However, there is less time to get packed and prepared to leave…so off I go to pull the suitcases out of the guest room closet!
If you have any recommendations or suggestions on what to do, see or where to eat at any of these places, I am all ears!
The holidays are about giving and this includes buying something for yourself as well. You have earned every moment of pampering and indulgence shopping for all you have done and gave of yourself this year.
Let us suggest you treat yourself to beautiful artisanal, hand crafted jewelry - both exquisite in price and quality - to wear to all your holiday gatherings. We know you won’t get tired of all the compliments you receive each time you wear it. Here are our favorites for you to explore:
Parisian Beauty and Style
“ While living in Paris my favorite spot for finding gifts (for myself and others!) was a lovely jewelry boutique named Satellite.”
Jewelry from the house of skilled craftsmen in Turkey
“This simple yet splendid natural semi-precious onyx ring was designed by Ibrahim Eke and made by a turkish woman named Aysegul.“
Elegant yet mysterious and sultry jewelry from Lebanon
“The work of Armenian jewelers has been long renowned across the Middle East and world. It is a reputation that stands testament to the skills and traditions of the Armenian community.“
More holiday jewelry from France
"Inspired by the magic of the great plains of the American West, these exquisitely detailed jewelry by Satellite Paris is reserved for the bold at heart. It is both ethnic and chic. You will love the intricate beading!"
Mix and match for a powerful and luxurious style
“I continue to love the captivating story the jewelry tells about the riches the world has to offer.”
Celebrate every inch of victory and learn from the failures.Cheers to all the woes and happy moments, to all your wishes and dreams. Let these jewelry from around the globe symbolize the empowered woman that you are.
It is Crunch Time...and we are here to help!
We know you want to give a gift as unique and special as the intended giftee. So not only have we scoured the planet for rare and stunning accessories to help you be titled, "The Best Gifter Ever", we are sweetening the pot (or handwoven Wounaan basket, to use a reference from the shop) with savings across the entire site.
The more gifts you find, the more you save!
Sale Event Details: Enter correct promo code during checkout to receive discount on all items. Does not apply to previous purchases. Cannot be combined with other promo codes or used on e-gift cards. Final sale, no returns. Ends 11:59pm PST on Wednesday, December 21st.
Traveling is a way to soothe the unending quest of our soul’s desire for adventure. At the same time, to travel is a form of discovering and learning; about different people, places and culture beyond the lives we ourselves live day to day. Perhaps the most meaningful purpose of traveling is to give us a perspective from another’s point of view. In the beautiful words of Maya Angelou,
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” In that brief moment of discovery, we feel our connection with others, no matter what race, language and culture we come from.
Apart from a collection of gorgeous jewelry, we also bring to you a variety of accessories that will merit your second look! Not only are these products a reflection of the places they were made, but most of them have a deeper purpose. Give a gift, handmade with love and that spreads love this holiday season!
A scarf for all seasons and your travel companion shopping bag from Cambodia...
“This vibrant, fun convertible shopping tote was handmade from colorful Thai fabrics by Cambodian parents of former street children living in Sihanoukville, who want to provide for and protect their children.”
“This 100% luxurious cotton scarf was handwoven by Cambodian parents of former street children who want to provide for and protect their children. I discovered these stunning scarves while eating at a restaurant Sihanoukville, Cambodia that trains former street kids in the hospitality and restaurant business. ”
Your travel companion from Guatemala...
“ Imagine this beautiful luggage tag greeting you on the airport luggage carousel! It was handmade by Mayan women who work within a co-op that was formed in 1984 to assist indigenous women widowed during the armed conflict in Guatemala.”
“This beautiful and colorful make-up bag was hand painted by Francesca Casanova. Francesca is a French woman who moved to Costa Rica over 20 years ago. Her charming shop, Meli Melo, is located in the beach town of Quepos.”
The beauty, vibrancy and romantic aura of France in a bottle...
“ Located in Provence (not far from the world's perfume capital of Grasse), La Maison de la Vanille specializes in creating subtle aromatic variations around the vanilla theme. I have fallen in love with their sophisticated and alluring combinations inspired by exotic locations around the world. “
“My appreciation for the intricate and precise art of hand printing was cultivated in the state where the technique of printing and dyeing fabric was honed, Rajastan, India.”
“This bright, two sided cushion cover has been hand block printed on the highest quality pure cotton using handmade teak printing blocks.”
Can’t choose which gifts to give--- We know the feeling! You can purchase our Gift Certificates. Here’s the good news, save 20% when you buy our eGift Cards. Use the code JJGC20 upon checkout (valid through December 14, 2016)!