Sun, 16 Mar 2003

Obsidian stones shine for all

Maria Endah Hulupi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Through its unconventional, bold and avant-garde designs, Island Jewels highlights the natural beauty of a lesser-known, naturally radiant stone born in the heart of volcanoes: obsidian.

What makes this semiprecious stone attractive is not only its radiance but also its wide variety of beautiful natural colors, like deep ambers, aquamarine blues, crystal whites, minty greens, midnight blacks, light golds, emerald greens and the very rare brilliant blues.

And Island Jewels presents the radiant stones in simple yet bold designs for pendants, earrings, chains, rings, bracelets, belts and other accessories.

"The jewels were designed to meet international tastes and trends," said Shalini Gopalan Menon, a designer with PT Permata Nusa.

Shalini's eight initial designs are the Sunflower, the Daisy, the Clover, the Lava Rocks, the Moons, the Stars, the Hearts and the Classic collections.

All of the collections are available at Island Jewels newly opened boutique on the ground floor of Pasaraya Grande, with prices ranging from Rp 75,000 to about Rp 400,000 (US$8.50 to $45).

The Island Jewels collections are all combined with classic handcrafted sterling silver to attract hip and young customers in the country and soon abroad, with the company eying opportunities to retail its obsidian jewels at leading department stores in the United States, Australia and other countries.

The name Island Jewels was chosen simply because the semiprecious stones are abundantly available in volcanic regions of the country, especially in Java and Kalimantan.

However, despite the abundant supply, very little is known about this dazzling semiprecious stone, which admirers believe protects wearers and wards off negativity, as well as enhancing self-awareness.

The obsidian stone is created in the natural process that occurs when volcanic lava cools quickly when it comes into contact with water. The stones' various colors are determined by their mineral contents.

In the past, obsidian was used by ancient people to make cutting tools and weapons and for ceremonial purposes, which has been determined by evidence found by archaeologists during excavations.

Shalini, who is also president director of the Interact Carlson Marketing Group advertising agency, said new jewel designs would be introduced every other six weeks to meet young customers' desire for novelty.

And behind the brilliant obsidian jewelry there is a social and community project, involving the long and meticulous process of mastering the skill of handling obsidian stones.

While the handcrafted sterling silver is produced by artisans in Yogyakarta and Bali, the company is providing a two-year training program for inmates of Central Java's Nusa Kambangan prison island, to teach them the craft of making obsidian jewelry.

"It takes practiced hands to carefully cut, shape and polish these stones to bring out their shiny luster to perfection. It is a skill few can master," Shalini said, adding that Island Jewels' boutique also helped market some ornamental stones produced by small artisans in the Pacitan area.

With its existing resources, the company produces about 300 stones each day, but that figure represents only one-third of its optimum capacity.

Today, Shalini added, the social project has evolved and grown to include orphans, local artisans and others in and around Central Java.

"The profit will be used to cover production costs, the project's operational costs and improve the welfare of the people involved in the project and their families," the designer said with a smile.