Not far from where I work in Leslieville there’s a cute little bling shop run by two ladies who are famous Canadian jewellery designers. On the Other Hand jewellery at 1015 Queen St E between Pape and Leslie, called to me. I mean literally they called me on the telephone and invited me to explore their store and to work for them for an hour in their craft studio at the back. I accepted and anticipated writing this blog the moment i walked in the door. Every piece of jewellery here tells a story and I went looking for semi-precious plots and gems enough for femme fatales.
Wednesday October 25th 2017 afternoon I dropped into a tiny pocket of creativity that is the birthplace of so much luxury in Leslieville. Below is Karen MacRae, a Canadian jewellery designer who exhibits her bejeweled work all over the world. This lady is at the top-of-her-game, and makes fantastic gem encrusted rings and broaches that only a small fraction of society could ever afford to own, or would ever wear outside. Karen is a spitfire of subtle humor and delicious wit; her jokes are fresh and her jewellery exquisite.
Now a pillar in the Leslieville community, Karen is probably working on her legacy pieces. With her own store on Queen St east and many generous patrons, this artist can afford to be a perfect collaborator. What I mean is, at this stage in the game she can take time to get to know the people who commission her pieces so the jewellery she makes will better represent her patrons in the real world. Her finished work is very often a fusion of her own ideas and those brought forth by her clients, and the origin stories of these handmade objects makes them even more special to their owners.
A working girl like me can only just admire the attractive metal art being made in the jewellery studio at the back of their shop. But just holding the half-formed pieces and listening to Karen describe the metal and gems she’s using is also very rewarding. The woman is a wealth of information. The celebrity Canadian jewellery designer shared with me her method for determining the value of diamonds. Buyers must be aware of the Four C’s; the cut, colour, clarity, and carat weight of diamonds are the four most important C’s to potential buyers. Karen went on to explain how really valuable diamonds are so often set in a way they lack character, especially when purchased in department stores and big box jewellery chain franchise outlets.
When it comes to making jewellery that tells stories and sends complimentary signals about the wearers, Karen’s best friend and frequent accomplice Sabrina Melendez mixes precious metals with more unconventional materials to make jewellery with undeniable character. Sabrina uses wood, bone and stone in her rings, necklaces and bracelets.
During my visit to the shop, I was gifted the ring you see below that’s sterling silver with a Bocote wood inlay. Bocote is a semi-precious wood from South America that is very hard and very pretty. Its mainly used for knife handles and gun stocks, but it looks spectacular when inlaid in silver.
Sabrina A Melendez made the Bocote wood and silver ring shown below. The ring is beautifully unique with stunning patterns in a dark swirling wood grain that perfectly contrasts the silver. Its so fetching it will always spark a conversation. People say, ‘Oh let me look at your ring,’ as they struggle to understand how wood could be so perfectly fused with silver in such a simple but attractive design.
Sabrina A Melendez silver Slinky necklace on a heavy black cord
Not content with just one amazing gift, the ladies let me loose to shop for another quarter of an hour! For fifteen minutes I was allowed to wander about the tiny shop and mentally picture myself wearing each ornament. I was looking for another piece of treasure that I could carry away and cherish forever. And I found it.
Sabrina A Melendez is a Master Goldsmith who graduated from Ecoles des Arts Appliques de Geneve Tech (in Switzerland) in 2009. With those qualifications she could work anywhere in the world. Together with Karen MacRae the two designers at OTOH are a formidable team. Karen and Sabrina excel at ‘customizing’ jewellery because they take the time to get to know their clients. If you’re in Leslieville and looking for bling, drop by their shop and tell them Raymi sent you.