Black Watch

A piece of black jewelry is an essential item to own and wear year round, regardless of color and which of the seven biomes you reside. The colors you wear reflect your character and how you feel. Color should be a personal choice – what looks best with your hair color and skin tone. Black is the most functional color. It works well for everyone in any context. It can be conservative, classic, somber or edgy.

Black is the color I am favoring right now, mainly because I am overloaded on the rainbow palette in fashion and design that has been so prevalent lately. In the past couple of years I have acquired many brightly colored things including tangerine herringbone and cerulean wool jackets from J. Crew, a pair of West Elm canary yellow lacquer candlesticks and a Coach suede shoulder bag in the brightest green imaginable.

Fortunately, I own lots of unique black items that are timeless, like my Ralph by Ralph Lauren black goatskin fitted blazer from the late 90’s, my Fratelli Rossetti slim black leather riding boots with black leather pick stitching and my prized 1960’s Hermes black crocodile Piano Bag to name just a few.

This year, at home, I plan to add touches of black to our beige and white environment. Vintage items like carved picture frames with worn black paint and cloche jars on chipped black wood bases are desirable. Raw linen pillows with black graphic arabesques patterns will really pop in our small studio, and hardware in oil-rubbed bronze would break the monotony of chrome everything.

I design and wear a lot of black jewelry, highlights of which are currently featured on my portfolio site. The pieces I am wearing the most are my EveryDay small black diamonds studs set in a wide gold bezel, a sculptural black opal freeform necklace that adds a little drama to any outfit, and assorted Wedgwood black basalt Jasperware cameo pendants I wear two at a time.

Below is my top 10 list of unusual black gem stones and organic materials to add to your jewel box in 2009:

1. Wedgwood black basalt Jasperware cameos are in a word stunningly graphic. The stark black and white silhouettes and the matte stoneware surface is what attracts me most.

2. Black opal is as glorious as the night sky, twinkling and shimmering with tiny flecks specks of ruby red, emerald green and sapphire blue.

3. The sponge-like matte black surface texture of black lava beads are a wonderful contrast to shiny rich karat gold.

4. Jewelry made from wenge wood is something I used to craft myself, when I had a studio with a wood shop on 29th Street in the early 90's. Especially popular were hand carved wenge wood rings, of which no two were ever alike.

5. Hyperstein is an inexpensive but fabulous silvery opalescent stone with black striations running through it like tiger stripes.

6. Black Tourmaline gets its darker color from iron and occurs in triangular prism-like crystals that can be sliced into rough organic looking beads.

7. Jet as a gem material was highly popular during the reign of Queen Victoria, during which the Queen wore Whitby jet as part of her mourning dress. Jet is not a true mineral, and is derived from decaying wood under extreme pressure.

8. Black drusy, a mineral like onyx or hematite that is naturally covered with tiny sparkling crystals, is my preference over pave crystal. Don’t get me wrong, because I spent years gluing Swarovski crystals to my fake fabulous jewels in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I think I just inhaled too much epoxy.

9. Tahitian and black peacock freshwater cultured pearls are my favorite in the the pearl family. I spend hours choosing black pearls with smooth, unblemished surfaces that shine brightly in the perfect range of iridescent charcoal, olive, plum and teal.

10. Black diamond is at the top of my list because no other black gem stone is as luxuriously black and sparkly. To quote Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel: “It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.”

Cynthia Rybakoff 18k gold and black opal free-form necklace, $1,690; 18k gold and black diamond studs, $950, by request at CynthiaRybakoff.com.

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