ANTI-AGING JEWELRY?

Oynx and Evil Eye Necklace
Oynx and Evil Eye with Diamond Necklace

 It’s no secret that the “anti-aging” market represents the biggest segment of consumer spending today.  No one wants to grow old gracefully, and today men as well as women spend billions and billions of  dollars trying to keep their skin taut and smooth, their hair gloriously abundant, their bodies firm and perky, even as the decades roll on.

And it’s not just Boomers who are obsessed with staying young. Today everything from pomegranate juice (yum) to exfoliants are marketed as preventive aging, to people in their 20s, as well as to more mature buyers.

Frankly, it’s exhausting. But we do have a suggestion—a Hamsa, an “eye” pendant, or even a piece of jewelry designed after the life-giving pomegranate!

Pomegranante Pendant
Pomegranate Jewlery

The Hamsa is a hand-shaped pendant which has been worn across the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa for millennia. The “eye” of course is an amulet which  resembles an eye, with an equally long history in the same areas of the world.  Both are traditional talismans for protecting the wearer from the so-called  evil eye.

Coincidentally, I suppose, the eyes and the hands are the first parts of our bodies to show our age. These are the two areas where our skin is the thinnest. Because the skin  here is so thin, fine lines and wrinkles show up here first as the result of constant UV exposure, weather, stress and repetitive gestures (smiling, frowning). Hands in particular are tattle-tales when it comes to age, because they contain no oil-glands—they often look older than the rest of us!

Moisture is key to keeping the skin young, as the manufacturers of zillions of skin care brands will tell you. Again, perhaps coincidentally, moisture plays a role in the concept of the evil eye.  The brilliant Dr. Alan Dundes, who taught at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote a landmark essay on the history of the evil eye, observing that the ill effect of the “eye” was always dehydration. He surmised that because the tradition arose in the Middle East, where water has always been scarce, the worst possible thing that could happen would be for an oasis or well to run dry, or  for drought to blight the land, as is happening in Africa today. This would cause your flocks and  orchards to perish. Other metaphorical losses symbolized by moisture-loss—for instance, loss of sexual potency and fertility—are also
associated with the “eye”, and guarded against with the Hamsa and eye amulets.

The aging process really consists of several factors—genetics, stress, conditions, attitude.  Other than a good skin care regimen, especially eye and hand-cream (our favorites: Dermalogica Hand and Nail Treatment, Intensive Eye Repair, Total Eye Carehttp://dermalogica.com), what can really be done? To wear in good health, whatever your age, and to see you safely from one year and one decade to the next, we recommend #gwn-f, a modern silver Hamsa with small “eye”, #ww17,  our Diamond “eye” pendant with your choice of gemstone strands, and for even  juicier protection, try # Pom5, our Ruby Pomegranate necklace, set in 14karat rose gold.

Getting older? Mazel tov—
and go in style.

Travel Safe | Jewish ways of Protection and Travel

SUMMER TREK

It’s summer, and your schedule is probably packed with travel: weddings, family reunions, class reunions, and hopefully some gorgeous vacation-time to restore and refresh you.

Travel itself is dehydrating. Whether you’re flying first-class or crossing the country in a beat-up van (both can be fun, in their different ways), you’ll find your sleep schedule interrupted, perhaps a bit of anxiety as you wait for your suitcase on the luggage carousel at the airport, pass painstakingly through security and customs, the occasional frustration if your flight is delayed, etc.

Fear not! Wearing an evil eye amulet or one of our Hamsa designs cannot guarantee that your baggage won’t get temporarily misplaced in Cleveland. But, as we always say, it couldn’t hurt. Hamsa Design with Pearls

Wearing a piece of “protective” jewelry is like carrying-on a little peace of mind. We also like to take a bit of ribbon and tie a Hamsa or “eye” inside our suitcases when we travel. A reader of this blog recently even suggested that we create a Hamsa-shaped luggage tag, and we’re considering it.

Now, back to the hand-symbolism of the Hamsa itself. We have to re-blog ourselves. Our last blog on the origins of the Hamsa contained a rather esoteric illustration of the Aaronic blessing.

But we left out some of the more important aspects of this hand-position which is familiar to many Jews worldwide, as part of worship. This blessing-gesture forms the hands into the shape of the Hebrew letter “Shin”.

Shin in Hebrew
Shin in Hebrew

This letter appears on the mezuzahs which sanctify and guard Jewish homes, and call to mind the names of Almighty God, Shaddai, and the Shechinah, the Divine Presence and Sabbath Queen. Of course, thousands of scholars have written thousands of pages about the implications of all of this, over the past few centuries. Just a little light reading for the beach this summer.

An aspect of this blessing, offered to the congregation by the priestly Kohanim, involves an emanation of powerful light through the gesture—a light which is so powerful that we are commanded to look away.

Does this light emanate from a galaxy far, far away? Wait a minute….yes, there is a similarity to the famous “Vulcan salute”, created by actor Leonard Nimoy for his half-Vulcan character, the unflappable Mr.Spock.

Mr. Spock

Nimoy was inspired by the Aaronic blessing which he observed as a child in Temple. Below, from his autobiography, I Am Spock”:

“The special moment when the Kohanim blessed the assembly moved me deeply, for it possessed a great sense of magic and theatricality… I had heard that this indwelling Spirit of God was too powerful, too beautiful, too awesome for any mortal to look upon and survive, and so I obediently covered my face with my hands. But of course, I had to peek.”

Even if you’re not a Trekkie, travel safely this summer—and live long and prosper.

AN EYEFUL EVIL EYE JEWELRY

Sterling silver evil eye bracelet
Sterling silver evil eye bracelets
Glass and evil eye silver bracelet
Evil Eye Glass and Silver Bracelet

Our “evil eye” jewelry is extremely popular. Some of the feedback we enjoy receiving is that our designs offer ancient talisman in modern, feminine, cool, hip, even glamorous and fabulous form. Basically, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing a museum relic—not that there’s anything wrong with antiquities, by the way. 

People from Israel, Greece, Sicily, Italy, Turkey, North Africa and other areas around the Mediterranean are usually familiar with this idea of the “eye”—it’s part of the culture and has been for thousands of years. The eye (usually blue) gazes out over doorways, dangles from the rear-view mirrors of taxicabs, and is carefully pinned inside baby-clothes. It even hangs around the necks of hard-working donkeys!

But maybe the concept loses a bit in translation. The use of the word “evil” puts some people off.

Blue Diamond and Gold Evil Eye

“Evil” sounds really aggressive, but folkloric scholars (and yes, there are such people) generally share the opinion that the evil eye is generally perceived as passive. Foremost among these scholars was Dr. Alan Dundes, who worked and taught at the University of Berkeley.

Dr. Dundes’ exhaustive and fascinating studies include an essay called “The Wet and the Dry: The Evil Eye.” Here, he discusses the idea that the evil eye is usually associated with envy, jealousy, or longing. The classic example: a childless woman, for instance, may gaze with yearning at a baby, and this results in the child being affected by the evil eye. The woman isn’t really “evil” in the contemporary sense of the word.

As for the title of Dr. Dundes’ essay, he associates traditional affliction by the evil eye with becoming parched, dried-out, and drought, true to the Middle Eastern origins of the symbol, where fresh water may be more precious than rubies and pearls.“Google” him for a really fascinating read.

Silver Evil Eye

And meanwhile, have yourself a nice, cool glass of water—hydration is key!—and check out our great collection of eye jewelry. Think of it as a “protective” eye watching over us all.

Red String Bracelet?

What is it about the red thread, worn around the wrist?

Bendel bracelet with heart charm and lucky chai
Bendel bracelet with chai and heart charm.

 

Speaking from the Judaica perspective, we call this simple, traditional bracelet a bendel. Our “red thread” bracelets, accented with a tiny charm (protective eye, star, hamsa), are one of our most popular items.

With the popularity of Kabbalah studies on the rise these days, these red threads are everywhere. The Book of Splendor (Zohar) tells us that the red thread invokes the protective power of the matriarch Rachel, who guards the wearer like her own child. Speaking as two generations of Jewish mothers (and descended from many more), trust us—this is a very good thing.

Mauli red string
Mauli red string drying

But here’s a mind-blower. It’s not just a Jewish thing…..while India is significantly east of our frame of reference, there is apparently a parallel Hindu tradition.  In India, the red thread is called Mauli, Mouli, Kalava, Charadu, Nada Chadi, Raksha, Rakshi….and if I’m getting it wrong, sorry! These red threads, sometimes with jeweled charms, are knotted around the wrist in observance of puja, or ritual.

The Indian red thread may have a yellow bar-pattern, and is knotted around the wrist as part of many rituals. There is a special tradition, for instance, of brothers and sisters knotting the thread around each other’s wrists.

Depending upon who you ask, some Hindus say that wearing the thread signifies protection by the Mother Goddess Shakti. The general idea seems to be that you wear it until it naturally disintegrates or falls off.

Some discussions of the Hindu red thread say that it even turns to “gold”, although we’re taking this metaphorically, not literally. In many of our bendels, the red thread is woven through a gorgeous sterling chain-link bracelet. You just replace the red thread when it unravels. If your bracelet turns to gold, please call me personally!

Hamsa red string bendel bracelet

 

Here is an excerpt from www.hindu-blog.com:

“Legend has it that Lord Vishnu during his incarnation of Vamana tied a red thread on the hands of King Bali to grant him immortality and to rule the netherworld.

There is also a popular belief that the sanctified red thread with blessing of the deity protects a person from diseases, enemies and other dangers.”

Tony Blair and red string
Tony Blair with red string

A few years back,UK Prime Minister Tony Blair made headlines when he wore one which had been gifted to him by Swaminarayan Mandir at theHinduTemplein Neasden in Northwest London.

And not too long ago in The New York Times, we read about William Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder empire and Lauder company chairman, wearing a red thread bracelet that he picked up at a Hindu shrine at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Raksha red string
Raksha red string

Good ideas know no boundaries! Wear your red thread bracelet, by any name, in good health!

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HAMSA JEWELRY= PROTECTION

Tattoo Hamsa Necklace

One of our most popular jewelry motifs is the Hamsa, or protective hand. This icon is used as an amulet by many Middle Eastern people.

Of course, we see it created in silver, gold, bronze, diamonds, pewter, glass, as a personal ornament. I have also seen it woven into lush Turkish rugs, and painted on gorgeous
fountain-tiles in North Africa. As you know from previous blogs, especially in the desert, protection and well-being are linked symbolically to having easy access to water.

I have heard the Hamsa called the Hand of Miriam, as well as the Hand of Fatima, depending upon who wears it.  I have seen it displayed with the fingers pointing up, and pointing down, although the fingers pointing down in my experience is more common.

Middle Eastern Hamsa Necklace

Sometimes, as in our alluring “Middle Eastern Necklace” (our item # art-m), the hand and fingers are stylized to abstraction, though we know the protective powers are still there!

It’s intriguing to know that the icon of the hand extends beyond our immediate frame of cultural reference. “The Mano Poderosa”, or Hand of Power, is often portrayed in Latin Roman Catholic sacred art, especially religious art from Spain and Mexico.

Abhaya MudraAnd check this out: the Mudra (hand-position) of Protection, known to Hindus and Buddhists as the Abhaya
Mudra. Portrayals of the Buddha often depict his right hand in this sheltering, yet liberating gesture, which is often translated from the Sanskrit to mean  “Fear not”.

Scholars say that Buddha first made
this gesture when he became enlightened. Prophets and saints of many other spiritual paths also are often depicted with their right hand in this position.

Coincidence? Doesn’t seem likely.
In any case, enjoy this universal symbol of protection from harm.Image of a Mudra Hand

Charm Bracelet: Hamsa, Evil Eye Charms on a Bracelet

Today, a charm-bracelet is a standard piece of jewelry for women everywhere. The “charms” may be pretty tame stuff—a tiny golden poodle, a stiletto shoe, maybe a cute mini-cupcake.

But the origin of the charm-bracelet, and the wearing of charms, was originally a bit more powerful. Charms are amulets, talismans. Their general purpose: to protect the wearer from harm.

The English word “charm” comes from “carmen”, the Latin word for song, or singing. Romance languages clearly reflect this origin. In Spanish and French, a polite greeting translates “I am enchanted to meet you” (enchante, encantado)—and in these words, we see the word “chant”, as in song. Meaning to literally be charmed, or bewitched, by singing or song. 

Many of our favorite pieces of jewelry may be called charms, because their ancient origins trace back to a belief in protective magic. With cultural roots deep in the Mediterranean and Middle East, the “eye”, the protective hand, the “red thread” bracelet, even the emblem of the fish are now worn by people all over the world. We’ve seen the “eye” and the Hamsa worn by young hipsters in Oslo, Tokyo, and lots of other places far from the lands where these symbols originated.

Do charms “work”? We certainly believe that a symbolic gesture of love, such as giving the gift of our “eye” or Hamsa jewelry, surrounds and shields the wearer with good vibes. That’s the great thing about love: one size fits all.

 

Star Gazing

As you know, people of the Mediterranean and the Middle East have been using traditional jewelry to ward off the “evil” eye and bring them good luck for…well, for as many generations as the pomegranate has seeds.

These amulets and talismans were not really a fashion-statement. Often, they consisted of no more than a single blue bead on a leather strand. Like a good pair of boots or a good hat, they served a functional purpose—mainly, for protection.

But, guess what: the Beautiful People have discovered these ancient emblems of protection, and they’ve become glamorous. We especially love the fact that brilliant businesswoman Lynda Resnick wears a red bendel bracelet in her executive portrait. By the way, we are in no way suggesting that Ms. Resnick, or any of the other celebs, is wearing a piece of Alef Bet jewelry—we only wish. But, it’s still cool. Ms. Resnick is the strategic powerhouse behind POMWonderful, the brand who put fresh pomegranate juice, cleaned pomegranate arils (seeds) and other fantastic pomegranate products on the shelves of mainstream American supermarkets. Her Los Angeles-based company also owns Fiji Water and Teleflora. Did the magical red thread around her wrist help it all to happen? Couldn’t hurt.

And check out these pics of LiLo, Kim Kardashian, Shakira, Rihanna and even Paris Hilton riffing on the Evil eye theme. Since the rich and famous inspire so much envy, again, a little traditional protection certainly could not be a bad thing.

 

Let’s Lighten Up for Purim

At first glance, the Jewish calendar seems to be strewn with solemn sacred occasions.  Many holidays do command reverence in its most solemn forms, such as atonement.

Then there’s Purim.

Traditions vary, depending upon where in the Jewish world you are. It’s safe to say that Purim is triumphant, noisy, even rowdy, and brings a playful carnival atmosphere to this holiday which will be observed come sundown March 19-20, 2011.

One of the most universal Purim celebrations is the giving of  mishloach manot.  The Book of Esther—and Esther really is the heroine behind Purim—commands us to give gifts of food (or money for food) to the needy.  And, many people do more than this—friends and families exchange yummy gifts, too.  Baskets of cookies, especially the buttery poppy-seed treats known as “Hamantaschen”, are a Purim classic, and lots of other favorites find their way into Purim gifts. In this sense, we consider Queen Esther to be the grandmother of the modern-day “goody-bag’!

Our suggestion: in addition to snacks and sweets that will be gone before you can say, “baruch Mordecai” (“Blessed be Mordecai”), include a gorgeous, enduring piece of Alef Bet jewelry in your special Purim gift-baskets.

Our selection includes many small treasures, such as a bendel bracelet featuring the simple red “protection” cord, clasped by a delicate hamsa in sterling silver (our stock #: bendel-15a). Or maybe a dainty, sterling silver hamsa necklace with a Chai charm (our stock #: 905-18), or a gemstone bracelet— one of our popular Bat Mitzvah items, too. Lots to choose from, something sweet and lasting to celebrate a joyful Purim.

Bendel BraceletChamsa and Chai Necklace

Hamsa and Gemstone Bracelet

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