Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Science of Flowers and Feelings

While channel-surfing a few weeks ago, I happened across an interview with one of those famous-for-being-famous gals. Having had a bad year, she was asked what she does when she needs cheering up. With a straight face, she replied that she had a drink (or three!) It got me thinking: with the times being what they are, and everyone having multiple worries, isn't this exactly when flowers are called for?

Researching this, I found many studies that have been conducted over the years by universities and scientists alike, and all have arrived at the same conclusion: Flowers can help decrease depression! Nursing homes have known this for years, finding that their elderly patients (men and women alike) are less stressed when they can experience flowers in their surroundings.

Americans have a vastly different outlook on flowers than Europeans do. There, buying flowers for one's self is as accepted, and expected, as buying the daily loaf of bread or carton of milk. In the U.S. we have unfortunately convinced ourselves that flowers are an indulgence, an extravagance, a luxury that we do not owe ourselves.

Flip through your favorite home decorating magazine. You'll notice that virtually every room will have at least one flower arrangement, possibly more, be it a few simple stems in a pitcher, or a full-blown arrangement taking center stage. Why? Because designers know that flowers make a room feel warm and lived-in. Though I occasionally have a bride who tells me she 'doesn't like flowers', can you imagine a wedding without them? How would you feel at a funeral void of flowers? Funeral directors have known all along the power of flowers to comfort. And when a friend is ill, don't you bring flowers?

In this time of stress and worry, of too many holiday commitments, you do deserve flowers! (And it's much less expensive than redecorating!)

I wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Sweet Smell of....Perfume?

The word 'perfume' comes from the Latin per fume, meaning "through smoke". The first scents were burned much like incense, and thus the aroma arrived "through the smoke". The Egyptians invented glass and the perfume bottle was the first use of glass, around 1000BC. Jumping ahead to 17th century France, perfumed gloves were popular, making it easier to mask the unpleasant scents of rotting meats and, shall we say, less than adequate public hygiene. Eau de Cologne was invented in the 18th century, and became a revolutionary advance in perfumery. In the 19th century, chemistry came into play, and a multitude of new scents were 'invented", rather than mixed, as they had been previously. Perfume was becoming ever increasingly popular, and in France, there was even a fragrance called "Parfum a la Guillotine". Apparently, you would not want to meet your maker smelling unpleasant!

The town of Grasse in Provence established itself as the center of raw materials with it's orange, rose and jasmine growing trades. Paris itself became the center of the perfume industry and spawned the creation of such perfume companies as Houbigant, Loubin and Guerlain, all still producing perfumes today. In 1921 the fashion designer Coco Chanel launched her own fragrance, Chanel No. 5, so named because it was the fifth scent presented to her by her fragrance designer Ernest Beaux.
(It was the first "grownup" perfume I received and I have saved the bottle all these years!)

The 1930's saw floral scents take the forefront, with the introduction of Worth's Je Reviens, and Jean Patou's Joy, both still popular today, and continue to be two of the most expensive on the market, especially when presented in limited edition cut-crystal bottles.

Today there are over 30,000 "designer" fragrances on the market and perfume is no longer reserved for just the wealthy. Witness Paris Hilton's recent introduction of fragrances; Elizabeth Taylor and her highly successful line of perfumes named after her favorite jewels. Even rappers are coming out with their own scent.

Do you have a favorite scent?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Art Nouv-OH!

I've always loved jewelry. Gold, silver, precious or costume, I love it all. Recently, the Boston Museum of Art launched a beautiful exhibit of Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewelry, popularized at the turn of the last century. Oooooo! And wouldn't you know it...many of the pieces include flowers in their design!

Rene Lalique was the most renowned of the Art Nouveau artists. His large pieces were often made of unusual material such as horn, enamel and glass. He was especially known for his technique called plique a jour enameling, which means "open to light". This gave his pieces a lightness not previously seen.

Other renowned designers, such as Georges Fouquet, preferred gold and semi-precious stones. He later joined forces with a master enameler, who would sometimes etch the surface of the enamel with acid, creating a shimmering effect.

One of my favorite pieces of jewelry is a beautiful art deco necklace purchased in
Prague a few years ago.
It's a striking design executed in sterling, centered with a moonstone, and it never fails to elicit compliments whenever I wear it.